Lisa Kendrick

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She stumbles on the split sidewalk,

Bends to adjust a red Camuto pump,

Pushes a lock of hair behind an ear,

Runs a shaky hand over disheveled strands,

Stands up, swiping one finger beneath an eye

In an effort to wipe off the mascara

Smeared on the slope of her cheek.


She hates herself for her addictions,

Loathes this ‘walk of shame’,

The stroll she takes some weekend mornings

When reality slices into bone,

Shoving prescription pills into her mouth,

Lifting the bottle of Jack to her lips

Even as it smears her Ruby Woo lipstick.


She twitches her navy dress into place,

One strap having fallen off a shoulder

From her unsteady gait down the street

As the city blinks windows at the dawn sky— 

She didn’t mind this walk when she was younger,

Wasn’t an addict all those years ago,

Had relationships instead of one night stands.


Now, she looks her age the morning after,

Doesn’t bother asking the men their names,

Snares strangers into her event horizon,

Goes to their places so she can leave before they wake,

Calls her sponsor those bleak mornings,

Then detoxes in time for work Monday

Where she’s given up breaking glass ceilings. 


Surviving has become her life,

Craving Vicodin and Adderall 

Hiding her needs from scandal mongers— 

She climbs the thirteen steps to the front door,

Punches in her security code, 1-7-7-6, 

Takes the elevator instead of the fifty stairs,

(She’s counted them more than once).


Blank walls dampen prying gossips,

Coffee settles her buzzing belly,

Shower water sluices across her face,

Desperation crushes her ribcage,

Her sponsor doesn’t answer after the third attempt—

Every minute is a battle in her personal war,

And each loss carves out a pound of flesh.

Wild Thing

I shake off the racket of my city,

An oily dust shot through

With silver iridescence— 


Bulky humanity,

A skin I wriggle out of,

Splaying my new toes,

Now a pearlescent green— 


I grasp the silky shadows,

Wrestling them from the arms

Of trees boughs spread wide— 


Angling down an empty trail,

I hear again the wild things

Humming to their feral child— 


Flipping his blond hair to one side,

his blue eyes dismissed your resolve.


You learned about his sugar cravings

the same way everyone else does—  


how he goes through relationships

never savoring the slick flavor


or swallowing the tartness slowly

like most do with a cherry Jolly Rancher.


Instead, his dexterous fingers

pry chocolate kisses from back seats.


He pops them between his full lips,

half-melted Hershey candy,


his tongue shoving it down his throat

while wiping his hands on his jeans.


You know now how he devours people,

how everyone learns the hard way with him. 


But you still savor the fantasy

that one day he will slip up


and snatch a Gobstopper— jaw cracking, 

teeth breaking, and impossible to swallow.

Civil War Battlefield

We work the second shift

at a job that is just a placeholder

until we begin the rest of our lives.


When we close the restaurant,

Atlanta’s nightlife beckons, instead

we hop into my red Dodge Daytona

following the scent of darkness.


It’s only a few miles

to the suburban parkland

were we play at hide and seek,

Sperry’s crunching on gravel paths,


white moonlight so bright 

we never stumble, choosing

a bench behind the treeline

in case any cops swing by.


We refuse to join life’s battle,

carnal lust our only driver.

We don’t even fear the dead,

just a future where we grow old.


I wonder if we woke any ghosts,

rising from their green beds,

gray gazes darkening with indignation.


"You can tell she's his daughter,"

shaking iron curls like wet spaniels—

nosy great aunts discussing the man

who took a curve too fast and met

death through his windshield

just weeks before my first steps.


"The spitting image,"

they murmur— winking wickedly

over glasses of syrupy sweet tea,

easily capturing my tricks off the table

while wielding spades with shiny

words digging hollows in my chest.


"Just like her father,"

they say, smiles splitting faces open—

"The same wild hair and freckled skin,

tossing back too much whiskey,

walking off with that long-legged gait

long before the game's over."

After the Haitian Hurricane, the Story of Monley Elize

I drink rainwater

as it falls from heaven,

dripping through concrete,

acrid with cement flavor.


I gulp it gladly— 

a child of dust, dusky

Haitian dirt— left for dead 

beneath the rubble.


I imagine an island

where juice flows freely

wetting the mouths of my people.

My throat clenches


at the clatter of footsteps,

voices echoing through stones

that press me into an earthy trough,

my whimpers lost to their ears.


My arms are blanketed in chalk,

chest a caged animal,

stomach a tiny, tight ball

until the rain falls again— 


bitter waters dripping down my face.


For seven days I survive,

entombed in the rubble of my home

until I emerge, reborn,

because my dad refused to give up.


I beg my father for juice

as he shoves aside rocks,

yet, eight years hence,

I know I live on borrowed time, 


my people still drinking dusty water.

Match Girl

We were all young once— 

Hair the texture of corn silk,

Thighs as tight as melons,

Eyes that danced fire,

Hearts that hummed rock anthems


Until it melted away— 

Diaphanous at first,

Mist spiralling from dry ice,

Then faster like wax melting

Beneath a blue flame, layer upon


Layers of carefully dipped wax

Shearing away until nothing

Is left but the fume of smoke,

Breathed in and held tightly

In the lungs of a generation newly lit— 


Blowing out, the scent of sulphur

Limning our entire arc of existence


Death sidled by again today—
He slid his callused finger
Across my cheekbone and slurred,
"You're not done yet."

Instead he chose his victims
From the next town over,
Lined them up in his sights,
And goaded another white man

Into pulling the trigger.

Death smirked as gun sales surged
Slapped his hands together smartly,

Lighting up a joint while we wonder
At the strangeness of mourning strangers.


Death strolls through America,
Sends us stumbling
Into a violet, violent vortex—
Sliding our middle fingers up
Saying, "We are done here!"

My Mother Still Frowning

Grandaddy was the coffee he drank,

Eyes crinkling in sun-stained skin,

He sipped it black, steam wreathing

His high forehead and white hair.


He made a show of blowing on his coffee,

Tossing his head back and making

A loud 'AHEM' after every swallow,

Winking at me when I giggled.


Decades later when I visit family,

I wake up at dawn to buy coffee

From the corner store just like he did,

A smile creasing my eyes as I sip it— 


My Mother Still Frowning.

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