A Roadside Stand of Gods and False Loves

by Mickie Kennedy

I

 

I gave a beta fish and bowl to a friend who later complained 

that it had lost all color: a white ghost swimming 

in a larger tank with several large goldfish. 

I pointed out that the beta was a carnivore 

 

and that the goldfish flakes he was feeding it lacked nutrients; 

each visit the fish remained unchanged, 

a white cutout of where a fish should be, 

its only life a hunger.

 

It is at this point that one must acknowledge 

the cruelty of the status quo. A solution, a cure, 

has been presented, and that not to act is a violation 

of stewardship over animal, the part of the Bible that got it right. 

 

I am to be the voice for this littlest of souls, 

a triage of tributaries and feet, ankle deep, 

palming clams from the mud.

I grieve at the speed it takes to forget a dream: 

 

my youth spent with journal and pen, 

my adulthood with a pot of coffee trying to forget. 

 

II

 

I trace the part of my arm that never recovered 

from a hammer's slip, a knot between skin and bone 

that when I imagine it excised by pocket knife 

and vodka looks back and decides it can take me: 

 

lovers divided by days, multiplied by a loosening of geography, 

sitting across from each other 

at the table of their 25th high school reunion, 

pleasantries and hearts hemorrhaging regret. 

 

It's hard to believe it's been this long. 

Has the oldest graduated from high school yet?—

questions underneath questions that cannot

be asked, the scab that when picked never stops bleeding. 
 

When she recovers, she awakens to a room of strangers. 

She collects her second-hand husband 

and knock-off handbag and heads to the door. 

It must have been something she ate, my wife says, 

 

oblivious to the sequence of emotions 

that have led to this dismantling of composure.

It is not enough that we both moved on, 

but that we moved on so easily. 

 

III

 

When a human and fairy marry there’s always one obstacle, 

one condition that must be followed or else 

the two shall be permanently cleaved, 

forever split from each other, the half-fairy children 

 

left without a mother or a father. 

It is always the human who breaks the covenant, 

peeks into the keyhole the one day a week 

she must remain alone in her room, follows her

 

to the edge of the forest where she stretches her back

into the shape of a bear. 

The season for bringing forth life swells on the vine, 

takes its place at the head of the table, arranges children 

 

and families into twelve disciples, decides to which side

it shall pass the marshmallow and yams.

As a child, I threw stones at the statue in the center of town, 

climbed onto its granite base and attempted to scratch out 

 

its eyes with mustard packs and a plastic comb. 

Today there is no town center, just a strip mall 

with a sandwich shop and a Family Dollar. 

Neither I, nor my family, can recall who the statue represented:

 

a blank human cutout probably sold for scrap or set out 

as a lawn ornament behind someone's house.

There’s an ease with which touchstones can be traced 

by the heart's fingertips when looking backwards in time.

 

Our truth is not the one we tell to others. It is the one we tell 

only to ourselves as the blade into ore catches, then lets go.

About the Author

Mickie Kennedy is an American poet who resides in Baltimore County, Maryland with his family and two feuding cats. He enjoys British science fiction and the idea of long hikes in nature. His work has appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Artword Magazine, Conduit, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, and Wisconsin Review. He earned an MFA from George Mason University.