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.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

By Rebecca L. Morrison

She loved to write letters, and I wish
I'd written her more of them like she
always asked, brightly, slipping
a sheet of postage stamps across

the counter, maybe hoping I was
scared of her lonesomeness - widowed
lovelessness - and the time she fell
down the stairs to her basement.

For hours she survived with screams,
until Jesse, the Boy Scout next door,
heard her, and he got a certificate from
the Baltimore city police enumerating

his courage. Now I cringe at those hours
she spent shattered on concrete, those
hours I spent trying to crochet with
the hook she gave me, only to assume

she could just teach me again later.
And when the day came, prefaced by
the ninety-year slip from here to not
at all there, I stood weeping, dripping

with my mother's good emeralds and
diamonds, and the soggy grass clippings
and leaves that caked my black pumps,
and tried to read aloud her favorite poem --

"I am the only little black lamb -
The only one, that's what I am;
All of the rest have little white faces
I guess I'm a whole family tree of disgraces," --

until my father's grip on my shoulder
began to shake and sent me, scared
and slow like a letter tumbling
down the basement stairs.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Head Cold

By Rebecca L. Morrison

My throat is tender, stripped,

so for sleep I steal a pinch of

stale pot from your mason jar.

I slump, fade against my naked

pillow; I lug thousand-ton eyelids,

heavier without my heart's

once-new thousand-ton thump

when it would press firm against

your pocked boyfriend-chest. I didn't

notice the NyQuil you'd placed on my

nightstand, the bottled water, until

morning rays met crusted lids, and you

called on your lunch break just to say hi,

just to remind me "a night is nothing

compared to forever," so I wondered,

Ryan, why you'd slept on my cat-fur

floor, just to avoid my germed breath,

heavy against your face, for I'm certain

there are more viruses in our future.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lunar Eclipse of July 14, 2011

By Rebecca L. Morrison

Boot-clouds of lava

dust awake, Neil

Armstrong once reported

no Gabriel, no Michael;

no messenger, no fighter --

only magnificent

desolation. Days after

your father drove to

the family lake house

and disturbed the shore's

sand with a bullet

that travelled temple

to temple, I tried to

disturb the new hush

of our desolation,

twice straight to answering

machine, and slowly I struggled

to remember the color of

your eyes. Nineteen, old friend,

we once were drunken moon-

dwellers, but now I only

dream of a dip with you

in uncharted lunar seas,

water rippling in the wake

of our boot-clouds --

but there's no

moon-water to sate my still,

arid tongue, to remind me that

they're brown or blue, only

ice where I hoped to find it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I am taking a creative nonfiction course - essentially, memoir writing. My first attempt...

Boob Tube
By Rebecca L. Morrison

I am watching the Bachelorette; you are talking. My darling, something’s gotta give.

Today, you see, is Monday, Ryan, and you know what happens on Monday nights – you kiss me during the commercial breaks. Otherwise, you sit tight and shut the hell up. I am super, super duper invested in Ashley’s search for love, clearly, and I’d appreciate it if you would respect that.

Remember what happened last night, Ryan? I do. It’s hard to forget a movie about a doctor who sews Person B’s open mouth to Person A’s 100 percent functional anus, attached to their very full intestines, and so on down the line.

Person B is Caucasian, American, young, and female. That could be me.

I squirmed and whimpered throughout the film, but you told me to “stop being a giant fucking vagina” and watch it with you.

I bet you were scared too. I bet that’s why.

You fell asleep promptly after the credits rolled. You had to work early the next morning, so instead of rousing you to hold me through the night, I quivered alone in the living room, even though I knew the door was dead-bolted. I let you snore.

I froze at every sound, every pitter-pat, jingle, and mew Audrey made as she padded around the apartment, high on nip. Finally, she settled in my lap, and I let her snore.

Until 2am, I bided my time. I watched King of the Hill and finished my box of chardonnay until my psyche was fuzzy enough to forget the vulnerable expression on Person B’s face when Person A could no longer hold his bowels.

But that was Sunday, my love, and today is Monday. I’ve stumbled through my day on three hours of sleep. Each time my thoughts drift – often, as is the case with my ADHD generation – I am the girl on the operating table, relentlessly imploring her captor, despite absolute knowledge of the inescapable nature of the horrors to come.

I can escape what she couldn’t, though, in the form of reality television. After lunchtime, when my vegetarian chili reminded me of Person B’s all too grotesque meal, I knew I had to strain my eyes to locate the light at the end of the tunnel, or else I’d claw them out before I made it through the day.

Each time my mind gruesomely wandered, I replaced those terrors with visions of Ashley astride an elephant in Phuket, Thailand, arms wrapped around…could he be her future husband? After tonight’s episode, I’ll be a step closer to knowing for sure, although I’m hoping she chooses Ames, the Ivy-League grad. This is what lifted my spirits high enough, past The Human Centipede, resting in a place where I could effectively evade the repugnance of the previous evening.

It was almost eight o’clock. My television, set to remind me to tune my channel to The Ashley Hebert Show, as if I’d ever forget, illuminated our silence with a program we’d jointly agreed upon.

“I’d marry Daniel Tosh if he’d have me,” I told you, inattentive to your insecurities. “This is the third time this week I’ve watched this episode of Tosh.0, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t make me smile every single time. I think I am in love with him.”

Our silence was persistent and rich with the way you studied him, taking wardrobe cues, making note of mannerisms – impressing me has always been our theme. That’s what you get for dating an only child, Ryan, and I told you that in the beginning, back in January, halfway through Season 15 of The Bachelor.

“And on Mondays, I watch The Bachelor,” I told you. “I watch Tosh.0 for a half-hour beforehand. I switch to ABC at seven fifty-five on the dot, because I refuse to miss a second of it. During commercial breaks, I get up to refill my wine glass – always white, always dry. The channel does not change until ten.”

“Does that make you happy, princess?”

“Like you can’t even imagine.”

“Then that’s what will happen on Monday nights, princess. You’re adorable.”

As cold January turned to colder February, Ryan, you grew icy too. Attempts to coax me away from my Monday nights in front of the television scented the air between us, polluted by the money you owed me and the fights we had when I tried oh-so-gently to remind you that McDonalds is not its own food group. March didn’t thaw you, and I sat alone nursing a wine glass at your brother’s wedding. They ran out of white; I drank red.

Tonight, it was seven fifty-five on the dot, and you told me you needed beer. In fact, you would not shut up about it, frenetically rambling like my sophomore-year roommate, Ben, after the exhaust from his last pinch of weed scented the air in our den.

“Cool, go get it then,” I mumbled. “The keys are on the dining room table.”

You spent all your money on the pizza you got me for dinner, you remarked, and – yes, I heard you the first, second and third times! – you needed beer. But, Ryan, the last time I trusted you with my debit card, you came home from the store, and I was thirty dollars poorer. I just don't understand why anyone could ever need that many bags of chips.

The day before, we'd visited your mother's house.

"I got a $300 speeding ticket last week," you had admitted to me as you drove us there, sheepish and sudden, as I slumped in the passenger's seat immersed in text messaging. "That's why we didn't go out to brunch this weekend. That's why I've been saving."

"Saving? As in the money you told me you were saving for our apartment?" Our plans of moving in together - no, officially moving in together; I challenge you to find your name on my lease - altogether vanished.

"Yeah, saving. I was going to tell you. It's for the ticket."

I slumped further, plump, creamy thighs catching, squealing on the leather of your Toyota's seat, slick with the humidity of a late Virginia June that always makes my skin break out.

The speeding ticket was in fact $400, Ryan, which I discovered as your mother hastily thrust you a check made out to your insurer the moment we pushed open her screen door.

"This is the last time," she hissed, flinging limp arms towards the ceiling in a gesture of frustration, a woman long ago defeated. In thirty years, that could be me.

I'm wondering how the $400 you claimed to have saved left nothing but a zero balance in your bank account this evening, as you ask me once more about the beer.

Don’t tell me I never make sacrifices for you. “We will run to the bodega. I will buy you one six-pack of Coors. We will make it back by eight oh-one,” as I scrambled for my flip-flops.

Eight dollars later, we’re nestled in our separate chairs. I missed the first six minutes of The Bachelorette, and you are talking. And I realize, Ryan that I was scared last night, but perhaps it wasn’t the movie.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lines On Strength

By Rebecca L. Morrison

When you called me, Mom, I knew

what you had to say well before I

slid my thumb across the touchscreen

because, Mom, the last time you stayed

up that late was December 31, 1999.

I wore silver sequins, and Aunt Amy

was moonlit and crying. There was no

Y2K bug, and here we are, Mom,

and we're doing okay.

When I answered, Mom, you were

crying because you knew what they

had to say when you saw the number

on the caller ID, and I was crying

because you were crying and,

in your voice, you were twelve

years old, and we had won

the space race, and your father,

watching, told you it looked like

it could be any cheap lot in

Hollywood. After 90 years of a

spinning world, Mom, I bet

the vertigo sets in, and all we

can do is lay down

and close our eyes, like those

times I rode the Tilt-O-Whirl

at the Clarke County fair.

I laid down, strapped in,

and, screaming, closed my eyes --