i used to be a
writer now i can’t even
create a haiku
if i could have five minutes more
i would tell you about my children
and the things i know you would love most
i would surround you with their giggles and love
and Skippy on the back porch–
black iron table and chairs
rusted swing set
and a red wagon ride
in the pines
i would tell you, i love you
more than words could ever express
love that spans generations to come
love that i only hope i can pass along one day
to my grandchildren
and i would ask you to sing to us
in the pines
i would look into your sad eyes
as we would have to say goodbye again
knowing you remain strong
as i break, from the rememberance of losing you
in the pines
i would draw in deep-
your last breath — “dry up those tears dream boat” —
your words, the strength i would need to carry you on
when i can’t find me
“in the pines, in the pines
where the sun never shines
and you shiver when the cold wind blows..”
The bicep of the man was covered by black ink
contorted into the markings of my mother’s home.
The spirals of our ancestors,
Printed and bolded on his forearm
caused me to stare
Our tatau is on that man
Distance and Time have exiled my mother.
She stays glued to pictures to smell the saltwater.
Relies on Facebook to feel the sand.
You can only handle checking “other” so many times
without seeing another in real life
before you wonder if you’re the only other out here.
So when we saw this man,
who wears Our history,
Our family on his body
Our hearts wanted to find our identity within his tendons
But our minds had to ask questions.
Where could he have gotten it?
Where was the artist from?
Does he know what it means?
No. It was just a cool pattern.
Your tattoo is polynesian?
Sorry, What did you say?
“It’s okay mum, maybe some Samoans ended up in North Carolina.”
“Maybe the artist knew”
“Or maybe they think we’re just a pattern.”
My mum and I walk away
Feeling just as alien as before
And just a little bit offended.
LETTERS TO THE DEAD: FOURTEEN
Dear Kevin, (1952 – 1993)
I never know to whom I’m going to write until I
sit down at the computer and begin. So far (except for
#4: To the Victims of the Parkland Shooting) everyone I’ve
addressed has been a man. I don’t think this will remain
so for the duration, but I have no idea how this project
This gender unbalance is because it’s been the men
amoung my family & friends that have been doing the passing
away, not including mom (or Penny as you, the gay son, took
the privledge of calling her) who at a sprightly 94, didn’t die
but ascended into heaven.
When you were born the balance of power in our house
was definitely tilted toward the boys, 4 to 1. When our older
sister, Missy, heard that you were a boy, she threw the phone
across the room; it was her tenth birthday and she was expecting
a little baby sister. But it soon became evident that the score
was not what it seemed to be; by the time you were five we had
added two more girls to the mix and you were busy in Missy’s
bedroom closet trying on her dresses and her budding teenage
makeup, then you’d make a grand entrance down the steps into our
Victorian living room whenever we had company. We started
saying that the Lallys had 3 boys, 3 girls and Kevin.
Kevin, do you remember Sister Mary George from fifth grade?
She played basketball with the boys everyday and had suspicions
about your manhood. She came to our house one day and told
mom & dad that there was something wrong with you and they’d
better fix it. They told her that, like the flying nun, she should
take a flying leap. But not to disparage S.M.G. too much, your
own brothers were far worse. One of our sisters recently
told me that you told her that we had once held your head in
the toilet and flushed it, screaming: “Grow up.” “Stop acting like
a girl.” “Don’t be a sissy.” I have scant memory of this, but with
Manic Mike leading the way, I’m sure I was capable of such
family facism. Since I was four years older than you, I can’t
plead innocent, so belatedly I ask forgiveness.
Since Mike died in 2015 our family score is now girls ahead
3 to 1. Our sisters are kindly tolerant of such an old curmudgeon
as myself, but I sure miss you guys, even all the craziness that
mom used to call “knock-down and drag-out.” I don’t know what
gene caused all four boys to try poetry but it sure has been
revealatory going through all these old writings. So Kevin, I’ll
end with your words from the pages of a Bay Area Anthology
of poems written by HIV positive people. Mom tore them out
and saved them in that Metaphors(tm) shoe box. Ha. Ha.
Till next time,
Knowing The Teacher
by Kevin Lally, June 1993
Look, look at death.
Touch it, let it touch you,
it is the door to your heart.
Accept, accept death.
Do not fight it, do not pretend that
it is not there.
Practice, practice death.
Every day, like the piano
like your dance lessons
Know, know death.
Know it in all your life
in all your grasping
in all your letting go
Open, open to death
like the tree with the soil
with the rain
with the sun.
I dreamt of the boy again
the one that drained my skin
cradling everything in his palm before
smearing me completely
with his dirt and filth
vivid red tearing through me
as if I existed to only be taken
eyes skinning me alive
hands cleaning up the mess that was made
I became widowed
from my own body
stuck in a monotonous cycle
of wanting to be reborn.
in hopes to start over.
in hopes to forget his face.
that only scratched in vain
that were too frail to scream
so I can live in another reality.
To be clean again.
I haven’t grown since the 8th grade.
I realize now that I am too short to be famous.
I’ve learned that I should milk heartbreak for money and attention.
Amazon.com/publishing please publish my chapbook
and delete all the negative reviews.
In memoirs, broccoli become
giant trees and tools for great change.
Broccolites ignore the Neilson Ratings
and request that all pages containing the words
“cheese” “crackers” and “mushroom soup”
be deleted from cookbooks and recipes
that feature broccoli. Regardless of Bush,
BR claims to be America’s second religion
following on the heels of doubt. And when
in doubt, eat more broccoli.
Melva Sue Priddy
leap from their nest
high in a tree
for the first time
when they are one day old.
The mother duck jumps first
leading the way
from the ground
and calls to them.
The yellow ducklings
fall through the air—
their featherless wings
as ineffective as flippers.
The birds bounce
against the forest floor
and wait for the others.
Then the little flock
follows its mother
to the water.
At the park for field day
I watch my son’s class
coming down the sidewalk
like spilled marbles.
Matching blue shirts
follow his teacher
as she walks backward
leading the way.
Her hand is raised
above her head
and her fingers are waving
but I can’t hear
what she says.
Cars settle to a stop
so the kids can cross
and make their way
to Woodland Park
where they join me
and the rest
of the waiting mothers.