Mother never woke up tangled in stars
but stayed on Earth, which father dropped
and watched as it rolled beneath the couch.
Her music was straight as a prairie road,
his was bent like an elbow to the gut.
He prefered the company of dogs,
she of me when I felt like one.
He proved that there are no happy alcoholics
and that love is conditional,
she that mushrooms can push through asphalt
and that cancer comes without a screenplay.
The cookies she baked were chocolate chip
but I always wound up with raisin.
He taught me to fish, but each one
I caught swallowed the hook.
He tried to be anonymous
but the rest of the world ignored him.
Some nights he came home after not coming home.
Some days her migraines were low-hanging fireworks.
I wrote this poem because memory
is no insurance against decay.
I wrote this poem because it ain't gossip till it's shared,
and I wanted you to know before the neighbors.
She gave it the double-edged life hack,
cut the umbilicus to her dead self
because her house has a typewriter cerebellum
where she taps the earworm of her appetites,
but her garden was a no-go zone of cats
pissing on weeds and poisoning the soil.
But now sailors mistake her semaphore for metaphor,
distress flags for pennants with the logo
of the football club that earns bricks in the stands.
Dictionaries shut up around her,
functionaries speak down about her,
adversaries sneak up behind her.
And the bodies of her friendships pile
like night-time sparrows lost in counterfeit sunlight
hitting very real windows.
So during the times she doesn't want
to jam for once and all the mainspring
of the machine she lives in,
she wanders bruise-coloured badlands
stared at by the dry eye of the moon,
bowing and scraping each timid step
like the Great Khan's wetnurse,
barefoot on fishhooks toward a bed
as comfortable as a pile of antlers.
Cemetery Engine Failure
She said that if you get the chance, to stay awake:
sunlight's expensive and easily spilled.
Said she had a right to aggressive happiness
and that it's not revolution without dance,
so pick up a rifle and tights.
She said that time was not a sparrow
caught in the chaos of your hair
but a pterodactyl soaring toward extinction.
Said that too much oxygen was toxic
which was why she smoked so much.
And you loaded it all in your freightcar memory
in advance of the day they'd find her
drowned in a barrel of honey,
sweet as any farewell kiss from the land
where waking is taken for granted,
where there is no sleep for metronomes,
where she was born to be property of a jealous Earth.
Sorry if this is not the suicide poem
they warned you about.
My Scars Are Purely Accidental
You were sad but you laughed into your pillow,
grasping at me as at a branch out of reach
above the bed you were drowning in.
I had been your acolyte from the time
I first snuck a sip from your cup
to kiss you by proxy,
until you disrobed to show me
where you got your inspiration:
needle tracks a day-glo trail
to a gingerbread house
where you flopped on a couch
sleeping the sleep of the unobserved,
by the weight of your own beauty.
Time to come clean.
The songs I tried to sing you
were stifled by your shadow
reaching round to put a hand on my mouth,
and my fear spread like malware
with no Bitcoin to lift the ransom.
After all, my scars are purely accidental.
So I did my best. But I was done in.
You proved that in the vastness of a prairie
you could still find a precipice.
Lying in bed as the sun dissolved in a spoon,
there was nothing to do
but count your breaths down from 10,
knowing that even shrapnel comes to rest.
Richard-Yves Sitoski is a spoken word artist living in, and the 2019-2021 Poet Laureate of, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. He has published poems and stories in a slew of journals over the years, and has put together two collections of verse – brownfields (2014) and Downmarket Oldies FM Station Blues (2018), both available from the Ginger Press – and Word Salad (2017), a CD of spoken word poetry. When he’s not writing poems, he’s writing songs and tormenting the neighbors with his guitar playing. His cat is a few donuts shy of a dozen. This is his first appearance in the Fictional Café. Image credit – Stir Them Birds.