Tuesday, April 24, 2012


When I first had lunch with Frank O’Hara he was
running five years late. Over Strega and French
cigarettes I knew I’d never enjoy so comfortable
a lunch again. 1:13 p.m. on a Tuesday and I’ve been
awake an hour so it’s breakfast not lunch laid up
in bed as my lungs flood with smoke. It’s just you
and me and I’m planted here in Richmond. I've never
been to Pittsburgh and that's where you are.

Today it’s a stand-off and I’m scared of these bullets
that travel across state-borders, scared to fling wide
my arms and catch them with my vest, scared that
the force from your pistol knocks me back to concrete
and scared it might break my spine and scared that
you won’t try to kill me today.

Monday was yesterday and you sent me a photo
of the snow-coated view from your window and
you ask me why sometimes I’m unhappy and I
blame it on my itch to write lines like these, on
the itch that shoots up my shoulder blades with
these wings coming in.

3:08 p.m. on a Tuesday and I’m just out of the
shower and I’m smoking Turkish Silvers again this
week so things like the sky behind the clouds and
the sun when I’m seeing it straight-on look different
and dreamy. In this moment you’ve released the
trigger and I’m standing with a bullet in my chest,
telling you how I’m scared to die.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Big Red
By Rebecca L. Morrison

It was raining when we hugged --
me atop the curb, your feet
on the street, and you were still
taller by a head. I wanted
to give you one
of those bear hugs with both
arms, so the umbrella fell
by my feet, and I let
the December drizzle wash over
us. You nearly lost
your footing when I
leaned against you with all

my weight. Over coffee, you told me
I'd grown, but all that's grown
are the three years we've spent
apart. I haven't grown without
you. When your Jeep grew

smaller with distance, patches
of dusky sunshine dappled
the Shenandoah skyline, and
I wondered where
the rays had been, why they'd left
me for the drizzle that ran
my mascara, four days
before Christmas.

Monday, November 14, 2011


By Rebecca L. Morrison

Until he fell, he was scenery. Until there was blood, he existed only as background. You told me you'd seen him fall – face-first, like an axed tree.

I watched you save an old man's life when he collapsed on the sidewalk outside of our downtown apartment building. It was July, midday. He trundled past the police station wearing white orthopedic sneakers, with thinning black hair.

First, I heard the screams - nightmare noises. These were the sounds, uninhibited and frenzied, that come from your dad when he fucks your mom - or anyone else - after months of no sex, no ejaculation. You heard it late at night through the walls when you're young and wish you hadn't. You would have rather heard them fighting.

When my eyes found the screams, a shallow puddle of black blood had escaped from the gash across his forehead, like a vat of ink tipped too far.

He shook like the drifter I saw lying on a bus-stop bench that August when we visited Washington, DC for the weekend. We were on our way to Starbucks, and I was wearing a new pair of high heels. You had told me he was probably too long without his drug, or methadone, or something he thought he needed to get along in this world.

Now there was blood, and this July afternoon was different. Thank god you were there though, as we both remarked later. I'd never seen you move so fast. You bounded to his side and told me to call 911. Call 911! Fuck it all; you're just standing there?! Call 911!! I didn't, but medics were there within minutes, and I hadn't moved from my spot on the sidewalk. I've only called 911 once before. I was five, and my dad was at a meeting the evening my mom's appendix ruptured. I don't remember making the call. She came home the next evening with a present for me – her appendix in a plastic jar. It rested on the kitchen counter at eye-level with me, and I studied it suspiciously as it swam through an anonymous liquid. It reminded me of the worms that lived in the handles of mezcal, tucked away in a specific corner of the ABC store down the street from our suburban Virginia home, in the same shopping complex as the Food Lion and the Video Den. While Dad shopped for his dry gin and mid-priced scotch, usually picking up a bottle of Kahlua for Mom, I would stand transfixed near the tequilas, wondering what things were like from the worm's perspective.

A month before your moment of heroism, I spilled from a rickety rocking chair whose wood was almost rotten. I'm not sure why you hadn't stopped me from sitting there. I toppled over the side of your mom's raised front porch, across the garden's wrought-iron fence below and into a pit of sharp rocks. You heard my newborn cries over the roar of the push-mower you were dragging across the grass behind her house, and you ambled across the lawn to raise me to my feet. Bright blood had already leaked across the hem of my white cotton sundress, bits of mulch now clinging fast to its fibers. My hands were damp and grubby, and they quivered when you approached me with iodine and cotton. I wouldn't let you cleanse my wound.

It was 95 degrees in the city the week that I fell, and people were dying of heatstroke. When I wore shorts, everyone stared at the unsightly blacks and yellows, reds and plums that discolored my pallid limbs. You said I should wear pants and long sleeves until the cuts healed.

Neither of us know whether that man lived, or if he didn't. We only saw the three medics in white that lifted him into their howling ambulance as he quaked and screamed. In the hours that followed, you called your parents to tell them how you'd acted like a hero that day. I told mine that you'd saved him, although by that time I didn't remember or know what you'd done to help.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tabby Ode
By Rebecca L. Morrison

It was said that The Prophet
took shears to the sleeve
of his robe so as not to
disturb the cat that napped
there, and I would invoke

new galaxies to keep you
nestled, soft and swelling
against the arc of my back
as I tremble, ill with the way
our words shocked and
stressed the air between us,

and at once I am afraid that
I found in a cat what I wanted
to find in a man, afraid
that we've only got a single

Thursday, September 29, 2011

By Rebecca L. Morrison

In the shower I slipped,
and the nail belonging to my
left foot's big toe bent
all the way back to reveal
rare, strange flesh, virgin
like the fresh peach pulp that
hung from my high school lips
when Ben, teenage god,
swim team captain, took me
on wooded picnics to touch
what was growing fresh and fast
beneath my blouse. The third July he
left, and I cried like Catherine when
Henry penned Greensleeves for that
eleven-fingered, google-eyed
harlot called Anne, but her name
was Caitlin, and on my eighteenth
birthday I drank too much Chambord
at a rock concert, and told her I wished
she were dead. Sometimes I still see
the harlot home-wrecker on my college
campus, and I look her in the eyes
and greet her by name like a band-aid
on sweating skin. Post-slip, I bought
a bathmat; it clung to the floor
of my tub for six months but
its pearlescent surface grew
soil-stained from my soles
and their summer barefoot filth,
and when I ripped it up from its
porcelain bed, my cat jumped
at the staccato pops of lost
suction, and I cringed at the
clammy grout I'd allowed
to fester beneath its clear, plastic cups --

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lunch Poem #2
By Rebecca L. Morrison

The first time I wrote about lunch I talked
about the same stir-fry every time, and today
is just another stir-fry, and last night
was just another stir-fry, which I ate on my
frameless mattress, waiting for you to open
the door so I could ignore you until you
wandered to find me, which you didn't,
and after five minutes of your kitchen grocery
rustling, I wandered to find you, and you asked
me why I'd waited so long to tell you I was
there in our space. Now I munch my stir-fry, and
the folks traipsing in from outdoors are all wet,
and I call you to ask if there's rain where you are,
and you tell me you're dry and you'll be home late,
and that this weekend we will go to the state fair.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Accounting for the Humanities Major
By Rebecca L. Morrison
11:48 on a Friday and I am running
late for my accounting exam: little
twenty-question fucker – accruals,
liabilities, deferrals, equities – words
that make my stomach cramp with the
aptitude I've never had, and oh man I am
rushing so hard I forget my hunger, so I
run sweaty into that good exam, but I am
late thus wobbly-chaired. There are
twenty questions but most answers are
just guesses; I was never good at
foreign languages - aha! And shortly
this gnawing desperation is awake
in my stomach, and I think of the
vegetable stir-fry I'll have for lunch,
which is the same thing I had Thursday
and Wednesday too. I remember the
time I tried to cook rice in my parents'
kitchen, and molten plastic scalded

my foot which had my skin bubbling.
I was limping for days, and my father
told me the pain was punishment,
karma for being a careless ninny
who can't record a balance sheet
or even goddamn cook a pot
of rice. I got a C on that good exam,
which to be honest, dad, is two letters
better than I had expected or perhaps
even deserved.