A Roadside Stand of Gods and False Loves
by Mickie Kennedy
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.
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.
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.