Editor’s Note: This is Vera West’s first full poetry post on The Fictional Café as our new Poet-in-Residence for 2022-2023. Please help us welcome her to the Café and be sure to read her haunting, heartbreaking trilogy of poems at the end, called “A Sad Tale.”
loneliness It’s an odd thing to grieve in advance, to let your mind give you a sample taste of the things you fear; the most flavorful being: loneliness. I’m anxious about the day when my loved ones are all gone, and I’m truly alone. between sisters the first time I told her our father had killed our dog, she hadn’t believed me. Perhaps it was the way I’d said it; “he killed our dog,” was all I’d said. the second time I told her she asked our father and he quickly replied back: “Whoever told you that, is a liar.” That stung as much as the truth. the sting of toxicity Have you ever cut off a toxic loved one? It’s horrible. You feel both guilty and freed, and you know your health has improved without them but you still feel like maybe they could change, and it could work out, and they could be your idea of them rather than what they are. ** a sad tale, part one Lila grew up with her family in adjacent houses on my block. Always on the second floor of her grandma’s house, she was locked away while her mother did drugs and her father earned to pay for them. Lila was banned from birthday parties on my block; she wasn’t right in the heart, her arteries twisted and clogged from being forgotten for so long and the one day she was out, she tried to drown another little girl in her kiddie pool. Lila loomed in the window on my block; with half an eye on the cracked sidewalk, the other on my fluttering bike streamers, I didn’t look up as I pedaled by—but she saw me, called out to me, as she slid the old window up. “I see you riding your little kid bike!” Lila yelled down the block. I rolled to a stop and shouted back: at least I’m allowed to come outside. Her mask broke; my words had hit and the vicious princess seemed sad, but why should I care? Lila was mean and we’d never be friends. a sad tale, part two There are always reasons why and Lila was no exception. We’re all bound to our choices; those decisions either: a poison or a balm. Many summers later, when I came home from college to my block, Lila sat in a rocking chair on her front porch. I was headed past her house, walking down Avon Street towards Gilkey Creek. Lila spotted me; tugged on her grandma’s sleeve, pointing excitedly, “I know her! I know her!” Her granny nodded: yes you do. “She lives on the same block as me!” Her granny nodded: yes she does. I waved and she kept rambling on and on. a sad tale, part three No one on the block would ever forget Lila; her leering and bullying would be remembered long after she was gone but in the meantime, life had a few more brutal points to make and it started on a beautiful summer afternoon. Driving down the highway, Lila, felt a change coming. The warm air blew her hair back and she felt new as she belted along to TLC’s "Waterfalls." Her mother was clean. Her father wasn’t ignoring her for someone new. A man loved her; not a boy, a man. Everything was going to be different. She could feel it. She knew, this time, change was really coming and it would stick. It was no surprise, then, that when Lila saw a woman pulled over on the shoulder she stopped. She parked behind her, hopped out of her car and asked her if there was anything she could do to— She would have helped. Lila knows she would have; and maybe she still could if she could just sit up but the only thing she could feel from the waist down was a liquid wet and when she raised her hand before her, her fingers were painted in the most beautiful shade of—what was it? She couldn’t remember colors' names, only that the concept existed and as she gazed at her hand, focusing on the dripping shades of an unknown vibrant hue, she felt satisfied that knowing it was beautiful was enough. The reason why didn’t matter. But that wasn’t the end for Lila; she lived. Her body was broken but she mended it and she went home a little less than she was but also more than she had been before. Yet, even so, her second chance was penance, not forgiveness. Every night, she found peace in slumber, only to wake every dawn with a blank slate; forgetting all her wrongdoings and the fact that her mother didn’t make it through her last bender. Lila asks when her mother is coming to see her and her grandmother holds her hand, pats her cheek, and decides if it’s better to tell her the truth or let her believe her mother is still the horrible person she’s always been.
After a messy divorce from music, West fell into a torrid love affair with writing. They’ve been somewhat happily married since 2013 when her first novel was published in partnership with Schuler’s Books & Music Chapbook Press. West graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Art in Writing in 2011 with an emphasis on fiction and poetry. Since then, West has self-published a handful of novels and three collections of poems that tackle themes of love, redemption, cultural identity, social issues, and the afterlife. West resides in Michigan with her family and can often be found reheating the tea she forgot she made or reading a good book.
You can find more of her work on her linktree site, on Twitter and our Residents page.