The Grudge

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I watered the grudge with a
fervent devotion of a priest
giving communion. I watered
it with the determination of
a drunk on his fourth glass
of gin. The destructive
clockwork of a not so
righteous self.

The cactus in my heart
erupting. I watered it everyday
with a can of venom. My hands
blistering over from the hate.
The fluid and its dark nutrients
taking root, until the petals
bloomed over and clotted my
brain, until there was nothing
left but arid air, laced with
regret, and the silence of
time wasted. The stale
taste of a garden grown
on the wreckage of malice
Gone. The long reign of
bitterness. The tight reign
of hurt feelings. The shards
of anger, shaken from my
eyes. I finally see the sterile
landscape clearly.

How the realization stings.

-Tosha Michelle

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Shadows of Death

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The shadow of my dead
grandfather cast itself
in my dreams some
nights.

I see his silhouette
walking down a deserted road.
I follow him for hours. Every
time I quicken my pace to
catch up, he quicken his
faster

There’s always a
ending but never a beginning.
Time refuses to fold back
Translucence wanders endlessly.
Papa’s the light darting through
my eyes.

I wonder if the dead remember?
Maybe in my dream I’m
looking for a clue that they
haven’t forgotten us,
that’s there truly is a spiral staircase to a better place.

Papa keeps moving
The bones stay quiet.
The ash refuses to speak
The moon gives me the dead eye.
What a thing to be so close
but hear no words

The night dissolves.
A squawk of a crow wakes me
My sadness steals the sun.
For now my question
remains unanswered.

-Tosha Michelle

Granny

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I’m snapping green beans
I bought at the store today,
thinking they would remind me
of Granny and sitting
at the kitchen table,
listening to her “well,
when I was your age” stories.

Hoping that just for a moment
I could hug her again,
feel the sureness of her being,
her sweet familiarly.

Go back before dementia
stole her mind,
and cancer her body.
The days of sweet tea,
peppermints, and house dresses.

Granny could solve any problem
with a hickory stick or a stern look.

I miss her, even now years later,
I can’t help but compose
her in a poem- warm hands,
dark hair, sadness
that never left her eyes,
a lifetime of hardships

For a moment I’m ten again,
and Granny gives me her Irish grin.
Something soft but fierce about her.
Finding joy in an orderly
home and things done right.

How solid and healthy
she looks laboring away
over green beans.
Singing her favorite hymn
“In the sweet bye and bye”
Light shimmering through the room.
Real but unreal.

“We shall meet on that
beautiful shore”
Her notes gradually
becoming fainter.
The words descending,
echos from the past.
Love in every syllable.

I listen as evening opens
around me.
Sorrow changes its pitch.
Thee last of the sunlight
streams in the windows.
Swelling, even as it
disappears, even as it waves goodbye.

-Tosha Michelle

Reading the Dead

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I love my dead relatives

like I love the broken

spine of my favorite book

I love the bent back pages

and the sad dust cover

of ruin. I’ll never discard

it. I take it out often and

bookmark it in memories.

In the chapters, I want the

words to live again. No

matter how many times

I reread the text, there is

no next scene.

I hope it plays out in

another dimension.

I’d like to think some things

are like this.

The morning light casts a

glow upon the cover,

giving it an angelic gleam.

Who could not admire the

beauty of a well loved book?

Wreckage made by years of

reading favorite passages

over again, and who could

not mourn, the sudden shock

when the pages begin

to fade?

-Tosha Michelle

Baggage

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Tell me about you, about
your life, your romances,
your regrets. I’m sick of
talking about me. I’m
tired of dragging my
losses around like a
little girl clinging to
her favorite blanket
I’m sending her to bed.

Tonight, I want to dance,
with you, and get drunk
on tomorrow’s promises.
Right now though, I’m
going to sit here and
listen. Tell me about
your fears, the boy
inside of you. How
the little demon
keeps you up at night,
how he taunts you
with your regrets,
you failures, your lost
loves. How sometimes
you just want to smother
him with his stupid
blanket, so your mind
can get some rest, so
your heart can know
peace.

Hold me close as we
talk. I like the way my
head feels on your
shoulder, how our
hands fit together.
Let’s fool ourselves
and pretend that our
little demon children
aren’t banging on the
door, that they aren’t
peeping through the
window.

Should we risk a kiss?
Do we dare?
Hurry, before they get
in. Their giggles are
closer now. It won’t
be long until all we feel
is the tugging of our
coattails, and the only
sound left is their
shrieks of delight.

Left

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You get up as usual
Head for the shower.
You run into the door
on the way, your new
nemesis and marvel
that you’re the one
coming unhinged,
no matter how
many time you
try to pour
yourself in a
bottle of Valium.

You reflect on life
and wonder where
sex went. When did
did poetry turn into
a slasher film? Beauty
being chased by horror.
Stanzas hanging out
with metaphors, and
alliteration, munching
on popcorn, giving
you a sympathetic stare

Keats always makes
you cry and seeing
the sweater he left
behind. You can still
smell his cologne.
It’s fragrant in this
lonely sky of isolation.

You reflect on a litany
of things lost, a canon
of regret. The past, an
inheritance or curse to
be claimed. You think
grief is blue, reflecting
on Goethe and his
Theory of Colors.

You try and put
together a new
ceiling fan, the one
he was suppose to
assemble, before he
finally stopped
oscillating and left
you behind. He was
always a sucker for
your silly humor.

You scream in
frustration, and
throw the wrench
across the room.
The newlyweds
next door have
been hammering
for hours.

-Tosha Michelle

Papa

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At eight years old.
I hold my Granny’s hand
The one that use to hold
my Papa’s hand
The one she
held for 32 years
The one she won’t
hold again.
I wonder how much
different mine must feel

We stand in a darkened room
Sharp with the taste
of ash and loss,
full of family and flowers
Tissues to cheek,
eyes red.
Grief pouring out,
like the holy spirit
at a Pentecostal revival

My Papa in his coffin.
dead. I struggle to
understand.
The adults talk of
angels wings, gossamer,
and light
Remarking how peaceful
he looks.
Granny lays her head
on mine and weeps

I place a rose
in Papa’s cold hand,
and kiss his cheek
Hoping he will
answer me
“Papa, I love you.
I’ll take care
of Granny
and hold her hand,
until she sees you again. “

In those few fragment moments
where consciousness
and grief collide.
I understand loss’ lexicon
That is comes off
like synthetic fabric
fused to a body
in a fire
taking skin with it

-Tosha Michelle