C L Bledsoe
Types Of Fish I Don't Like
belly fishtv fish
fish having an affair
fish working a dead-end job
fish reliving its halcyon days
fish in line at the DMV
vice president fish
fish working for minimum wage
fish with no health insurance
fish who eats too much at Thanksgiving
fish who discriminates against other fish
fish pretending to be a shark
fish with money problems
fish in the bathroom
fish with legs
fish that walks on land
fish with a swimming pool
fish with mob connections
fish with a shellfish on land
fish eating candy
fish who loves too much
fish with poor depth perception
fish staring at the glass
*Previously published in Backwards City Review
Luck waited outside my door, tripped me early
and still half asleep, watched me roll down the stairs
and handed me a band aid when I glared at his eyeholes.
Woke with asphalt in my beard, kids jaywalking
over my face so they could steal CDs from the library
across the street.
Woke rich with soil, pockets full of loam.
Woke easy and new. The cells on the back of my hand
are fresher than locally grown lettuce.
Woke, sat up and stretched. The crick in my back, my back,
my wallet was gone. The shoes that'd been pinching my feet
were stolen by an old lady across the hall. Every Tuesday
when I get home from work, she asks me to take her trash
to the dumpster, those new shoes, they hurt her toes so.
*Previously published in Thieves Jargon
But My legs Remember That Road
After Huntington's Disease settled in
like an uninvited guest, my mother started
her walks. Back and forth, down the gravel road
from our house to the cattle gap, from the gap
to my Aunt's house, from my Aunt's, back.
It wasn't so much that she was trying to outpace the disease;
she was trying to remember the way home,
grinding each step into the gravel,
working it into her legs until they could remember for her.
I was young when this all started.
I knew only that her father died with his fist print
still buried in the metal of a car door,
so deep and perfect you could see the outline
of his wedding ring,
though he could not recall his wife's name.
She wrote, as well. Every evening, after dinner,
she copied one line after another on college ruled paper:
her name, her birth-date, her children's names, her husband's;
things she could remember. We kept
these pages in her old hope chest
with her wedding gown, her photos.
But my legs also learned that road, tagging
behind her like a stray calf, and the dust
that tasted like unsweetened chocolate,
the jerk of her stops and starts, the chorea
of her path, crisscrossing the gravel like a dance floor.
*Previously published Barnwood Poetry Magazine
The Woman In The Other Bed
says she's cold. We can hear her thin voice through the curtain
slicing my mother's room in half.
My mother grunts, and my brother's wife
pulls a sheet to the woman's shoulders and leaves.
We're alone, my mother
and me and the woman and the weather, my shoes,
and the woman
calls out a name. “No,” I say. She calls again and I say he
isn't here. Mom is trying to spit something
that might be hi or a name and the woman
is crying. “This hurts me,” she says, holding an arm up
to show me a cast on her wrist. “I want to go home,” she says.
Back in the car, Jillian's talking
about getting a hamster. “They're cute and fat
when they sit up, like a little baby. We can get a
ball,” she says. “So it can run around.”
“We'll have to take care of it,” I say. “There are responsibilities
involved. It's not just a toy, it's a life. What about
when it isn't fun anymore? We'll still have to take care of it.”
“We can do that,” she says. “Don't you think?”
“Yes,” I say, and yes again.
*Previously published in 21 Stars Review
We'd hoped to be a certain kind of people
who'd donate regularly to charities,
phone the ASPCA and report the couple
across the street for letting their dog
wander in traffic, eat what we knead, and share
the produce from the garden we'd plant
as soon as we had soil to call our own - so many truths
we'd hoped to live up to.
Instead we listen to the screech of brakes
dodging the stray dog, and shake our heads,
stick solicitations for donations in a pile we call Someday;
but it takes up so much room. Dinner from a box
is boiling over on a stove we manage to keep
moderately clean. Dust doesn't cover our things
as much as our plans. This is something to be proud of,
at least. A person must find solace wherever
it lands; brush the crumbs of others' sloppy
meals from its wings, and place it somewhere it will keep,
like a leftover piece of chicken and some peas
in the fridge - so you have something to take with you tomorrow.
*Origianlly published in Margie