January 26, 2022

“A Sad Tale,” Poetry by Vera West

“A Sad Tale,” Poetry by Vera West

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.”


 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.

Fictional Cafe
#a sad tale#childhood#poetry#vera west
  • Tracy Strating says:

    Your work is fierce and feels so true to heart. Thank you.

  • Priscilla says:

    Vera West’s poems are ones I would hand to someone who says, “I don’t understand poetry.” I reread Vera West’s poems not because I don’t understand them but because I want to re-live their truths. “Between Sisters” and Lila in the “sad tale” series: these stories are Truth. “Inviting and haunting”–yes. Kudos and appreciation to Vera West for writing and publishing.

  • Gopal Lahiri says:

    Vera’s poems are incisive and moving! A rewarding read!

  • Alex says:

    Powerful and poignant!

  • Tiffany says:

    Vera’s writing style is inviting and haunting at the same time. Her works of poetry are pure beauty.

  • Anonymous butterfly says:

    The emotional stories in these poems can be felt deeply. Lies told in family’s, loneliness when surrounded by people and when alone. I ask myself Questions about what drove the bully to bully. Then feel sorrow for how her story ended. beautiful work!

  • Lynne says:

    Vera, I’m blown away by your work! You draw the reader in and take them on a visual ride with your words. I feel like I know Lila and experienced a closeness to her as well as her sadness. I can’t wait to experience more of you poetry.

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