Lead

My darkness covered you like a blanket weighted with lead.

But I didn’t know.

I didn’t mean to shroud you

with me.

 

In a moment of clarity, I saw it all

the horror of it all

the confusion of good intentions

and miscalculations

and foolish actions

the incapability of a mind full of chaos

to move toward the light.

 

Instead, I carried the heavy weight

of fear

dragging it along

and laying over all I touched

crushing all the good

the hope.

 

And what now

if I lift this leaden blanket laden with all my darkness?

What remains?

The broken remnants of what could have been;

who could have been?

Or is there hope buried beneath the withered remains of possibility?

Let’s Play a Game

two men inside moving vehicle

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A short story by Heather Nanni

“Hannah,” my mother said, watching me through the rearview mirror. “Think of a name, but don’t tell me what it is. Okay? Did you think of one? Ready?” She waited a minute, glancing back at me and smiling, and then she said, “Blaire.”

I wondered how my mother did it. “Yes, Mommy! Yes! Yes! Do it again. Let’s play again.”

“Okay, Hannah, now remember not to tell me. And be sure not to move your lips. As a matter of fact, why don’t you look out the window? That way I can’t even see your face. All right. Think of a name.” She waited a moment. “Did you think of one? Are you ready?”

“Ready, Mommy.”

“Okay. Here goes.” She made her silly drumroll sound-the one I tried to mimic but couldn’t. “Cindy!”

“Mommy! How do you do that? Again! Again!”

And so the game continued, until my mother had enough. “All right, Hannah. That’s it. Mommy’s tired.”

“Mommy. How did you do it? Tell me how you did it? Is it magic?”

“Hannah, you know there’s no such thing as magic. I’m disappointed at you for even asking. It’s God’s special gift to me.”

“Mommy, do you think God will give me the gift too?”

“No Hannah. Like I said, it’s a special gift from God to me. You have gifts, right? Like the doll I gave you for your birthday? Did Mommy expect a doll too?”

“No Mommy.”

“Well then you can’t expect this gift either.”

That’s how it started. I was six years old when Mom first played the game with me. And, although Mom told me I didn’t have her gift, once, when I was a few years older, I tried to see if she was right. We were having tea together and I said, “Mom, think of a name.”

“Why Hannah?” she asked.

“Because I want to see if I can do what you do.”

But, rather than think of a name, she reached across the table and slapped me in the face. “I told you already! That’s God’s gift to me. You greedy thing!” With that she threw my teacup against the wall, tea and ceramic pieces flying everywhere. After I cleaned the mess, she sent me to my room where I remained until the next morning when she took me to her minister so I could confess my sins. I was eight years old then, and it would be years before I tried my hand at mom’s gift again.

As I got older, mom developed her skills and expanded her repertoire. By the time I was about ten, she no longer limited herself to guessing names. She read my thoughts.

“Hannah, did you like the chicken Mommy made for dinner?

“Hannah, do you like Mommy’s new outfit?”

“Hannah, did you pay attention during today’s sermon?”

My answer was always, “Yes, Mommy,” and her response was invariably, “Oh Hannah. When will you ever stop lying?” Then she would continue with either a reprimand or a beating.

When I was a teenager, I realized my mother was paranoid.

“Hannah, did you tell Kathy about what happened here last night?”

Kathy was my best friend. Of course I told her about what happened the night before. How my mother rolled on the floor and begged God to expel the demons from our house. How she prayed over me, dragged me by the hair and locked me in my bedroom. My mother didn’t wait for me to answer. Instead she punched me on the side of my head and took me to her pastor’s office where they decided it was best to take my phone away and not allow me to see my friends any longer.

Being without friends or any life outside of school gave me a lot of time to study my mother. I learned the only thing that calmed her down after working herself into a frenzy was watching religious videos-mainly of zealot preachers yelling at congregations to repent. One night, she woke me from my sleep and yanked me out of bed. “Did you say your prayers?”

I hadn’t. I had fallen asleep. My mother raised her hand to strike me, and when she did I just closed my eyes and pictured her walking out of my room and going into the living room to watch a video. To my surprise, she lowered her arm and left, and, like a sinner’s sudden realization that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, it came to me­-if I could hold a thought with an image rather than with words, my mother would receive the message without even realizing.

It took a lot of practice and a lot of beatings to perfect my skill. I started small-envisioning a roast chicken rather than asking my mother to make one. It was tricky though. If I allowed the words to slip in-I hope mom makes a roast chicken for dinner-she would hear them.

After about three months, I decided I could put my gift to good use and help my mother manage her meds. She took all sorts of pills-for arthritis, migraines, her heart condition. I got pretty good at visualizing her not taking some, taking too many of others, swallowing entire bottles. One day, in fact, I walked into her room and found her lying on the floor, an empty bottle of heart meds next to her. I never felt so strong in my life. I finally had God on my side.

Of course, I’m nothing like my mother. I would never abuse my gift. Anyway, I’ve got to go and take mom to day care now. She’s never been the same since her unfortunate incident with the pills. She really needs round-the-clock assistance. Looking at her through the rearview mirror, it’s hard to imagine the person she once was.

“Hey Mom. I have an idea. Let’s play a game.”

 

The Monsters in My Bed

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During the day,

I’m equipped to keep the monsters at bay.

But at night, when I’m asleep, I’m helpless.

Naked.

Stripped of saber.

Devoid of strategy.

So the monsters crawl under my sheets and, when I wake,

their talons are wrapped around my throat.

 

Sweet dreams are easy.

Sweet awakenings are another story.

Monsters

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Your monsters are slick

like movie villians

-they always get the the cool costumes.

They smoke cigarettes

and lurk in dark alleys.

They hide behind trees in forests.

They creep into your houses

and into your daughters’ dolls

to make their heads spin.

They hide in your basements

and wait in the darkest corners

for you to go downstairs.

And

when they are ready

they arch their backs and scurry like crabs

up walls and onto ceilings.

But my monster is different.

She crept in between my thighs

after I had a cocktail

or three

and slipped inside, warm and gentle.

She swam through my veins

until she reached my brain

where she curled up

and now the two of us

sleep together

and wake together

and think

and act

and stay

together

even in the sunlight.

 

 

 

Complacency

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It is impossible to be unhappy on this beautiful day.

The sky is clear and blue

only blue-the perfect compliment to the newly sprung leaves of verdant green

under whose canopy I sit and appreciate

the gentle breeze and glorious sun

whose rays sneak through this lush umbrella

to kiss my skin

-softly, gently.

*

It is impossible to be unhappy.

Is it not?

*

But the breeze-it lulls me to sleep

a dull dreamless sleep

which I do not wish to enter.

*

I long for a sharp and bitter wind

to jolt me awake.

*

My eyelids are heavy.

My limbs carry the invisible weight of complacency.

*

But it is just so pretty

and comfortable

sitting here.

Just sitting.

It is impossible to be unhappy.

 

This poem was originally published on June 3, 2018

Is This Death?

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Is this death, this dull ache in my back?

What of these pains that pulse through my body?

This fear that sleeps and wakes with me, is it death

like a crow picking on carrion in the street?

Is she death, this face that greets me in the mirror each morning?

This woman I do not recognize?

This exhaustion, is it death

ringing the bell, waring me that the time for eternal rest is fast approaching?

 

Perhaps it is death.

I do not like it though.

I prefer to believe it is life.

Life marching on.

Life marching over me.

 

Perhaps I will grab hold of it

and let it carry me along

through this maelstrom that rages for an eternity

or a moment.

 

Perhaps, when the winds die and the sea stops churning,

there will be peace

peace in this life

before death.