Tuesday, May 24, 2011

False Dreams of a Nightingale

People move in and out of tables
around us, each ordering plates of eggs
and toast. The smell of pancakes with
maple syrup is sickly sweet after
long hours in the ER, saving lives.

Both of us sit there
in an abbreviated second wind,
the years showing on her face
as I am sure they also do on mine
with all the losses we cannot forget.

There are tears over shared tragedies,
still fresh and painful,
that lead to ragged napkins
crumpled on the table amongst
the empty creamers and cold coffee.

She leaves the spot across from me
and I am suddenly aware of what this life
will become; one thankless night
after another, spanned over the decades
of my life, until I am here again

watching people drip egg on their shirts.
They make straws into geometric designs
in the awkward silences between bites
and I think to myself that I should have hugged her
when she told me her friend died.

Aleathia Drehmer 2008

Published by Decompression, 12/10

Lost Season, a novena

Day One

The light is faint through the window and my body lies in the silence of morning. She has died, I know. Her brilliance faded into tendrils of weakness on tree limbs and broadsided homes. Her smile is absent on my skin. She has died, I know. I rise with feet hovering above the sea of neutrality.

Day Two

They have come with her burial shroud, lacy and white, sheer muslin from stitched vapors in the crow’s beak. For once, they have nothing to say….just this once when I look for their clear calling across the meadow. She has died, I know. They have come as pall bearers now. I lift hands to sky asking questions; I stand willing and open for answers, however small. She has died, I know.

Day Three

I know when the ladybugs swarmed the air in a scarlet wind weeks ago that time was closing in, but never imagined she’d really go. It was not urgent in my mind, but now the elders have lined up in their naked grace. She has died, I know. Their once flexible branches now stiff in her passing. They no longer speak to me. Why is everyone so silent? Why is there no more crying out in the night? She has died, I know. I lay my hand upon great trunks with rough bark feeling for the heat of their cores, but there is nothing.

Day Four

She has died, I know. The path is covered in frost this mourning when I have come to absolve my disillusions of the world in her face. She would speak to me in the place where the paths crossed, where choices always come to be made. She has died, I know. “Mother” I call standing small with my own heart pumping in hand. I wait for an answer.

Day Five

“Come quick into the light before it goes” they whisper and from the downy wings of sleep my blanket warmed body shuffles from the dark cave in my mind. She has died, I know. With my head hanging and solid, I find the door. Its metal is rude and real. I need not open it to know that truth is only meant for dreams. She has died, I know. The window tells me to go back from whence I came. There are no answers here.

Day Six

In the night, I lie awake aware that maybe I have missed her in sleeping. My despair is fondled and molded into a new shape. It is warm and sticky on my fingers. She has died, I know. The night will not give me the answers. He is shrewd and keeps secrets. I count the breaths exhaled from my chest, waiting for something. She has died, I know.

Day Seven

I have counted 5,760 breaths, all of which whispered her name like a prayer. My body is suspended there momentarily until I go to the crossroads again. The goldenrod is gray there and the grass suffocated in thin white ice. The japonica will not even look at me; she has died, I know. I will wait until she comes. I will not move from this vigil. She has died, I know. The candle in my heart grows dimmer.

Day Eight

Sometime in the night my body collapsed onto the path. The pattern of rocks pressed sharply into my flesh, biting my cheek. She has died, I know. My nose shimmers with blue and I half wonder if I am still breathing. Have I forgotten to live while waiting? The thrush perches off in the distance. It calls me to waking, reminds me why I’ve come. Frozen hands push up frozen limbs from the ground. She has not come.

Day Nine

I have given up the wanting. She has died, I know. And by the window I sit more innocent than is understandable to me and somehow I am so empty I’ve become full. The rock pattern is still faintly indented into rosy cheek and I touch its outline. In it, I find the answer. Some grace of spirit has come to show me I am only human; I am real. She has died, I know.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Toy(ing) with the Revolution

You can’t wrap your fingers
around it, the elusive it.

There aren’t too many
things to wrap a finger

around, but the image
burns my eyes; your

fingers long and rough
wrapping around the neck

of the establishment. You
mutter it is all gift wrap

for tiny toys anyway. I try to laugh
but all I see are toy machetes

and your fingers the revolutionaries
taking it all down; your breath

the revolution itself, pulling
it in and spitting it back out.

Your tears create the flood
that washes them all away.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Prathamata (India), Print, 2010


We were opposites then,
I was olde world
and you were new—
inverted paradigm
freshly enslaved.

It is all stolen

It is all quick
in this black night
of rain slicked
pavement with
angles incongruent
and mouths indifferent.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Prathamata (India), Print, 2010

Reading Tea Leaves at Midnight

Through the window
the street light reflects
off the abandoned cars,
windows sheathed in the night’s
dew, now hardening into frost.

It is cold enough outside
to see the anatomy of autumn.
His sword falls onto the necks
of everything living, his blow
only hard enough to maim;
the deconstruction a whisper.

And inside, his fingers stitch
cobwebs in the empty places
we didn’t know existed.
We will find them when it is too late,
when the ground is covered in pale
misery, when there is no inspiration
to fight back.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by MUST, 10/10

Burrett's Mound

Josephine sat in the corner of the shelter off the edge of the yard. Her back was pinned against the cool pounded earth walls her grandfather had built so many years ago. She pulled her knees into her chest at the horror of the beastly winds above ground. They had not even reached her yet, but she felt their presence before the sirens beckoned her under earth.

She had been sitting on the porch after the day’s work in the fields, her knees feeling older than the stud beams of this house, watching a fall storm roll in across the flat plains of Kansas. Josephine had never lived anywhere but here on the outskirts of Topeka. She had never seen a mountain in real life nor the ocean. The thought of seeing those things were considered as implausible as living forever. But there on the far horizon the thunderheads formed. The lightning flashed like a fierce tongue lashing from Zeus. Josephine believed in Gods and Saints and all matter of higher powers. It was foolish not to in these tough lands with the devastation they could unleash.

Jo stood from the chair with her hand on the railing suddenly afraid of the electricity in the air. The chill of a freshly turned October was laden in skin as she pulled her sweater tighter. She had a feeling about this one despite it being late in the year, Josephine knew twisters could crop up if the heavens aligned just right; if the opposing air masses transcended their allotted space in the world. Now, she didn’t have any children to worry about and no man graced her bed (not in a great many years ) so she closed up the house and walked slowly to the shelter just passed the squared patch she had spent all day toiling.

The metal doors were heavy and rusty and in great need of oiling, but Josephine never seemed to find the time to do this sort of thing. She had not climbed down into this hole in so many years. With her flashlight, she located the tiny staircase and let the door clatter behind her. The sound was painful and filled her ears with pressured air. Josephine found the bench, sat down, and waited. She turned the flashlight off.

Here she was with an empty head and a racing heart that only beat faster in the darkness. An acrid taste formed in her mouth listening to the storm rage, rattling the steel doors like a rabid animal. Josephine sat there curled in a ball whispering devotions to St. Swithin under her breath knowing this time, he would not relent the storm. She prayed anyway.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Winner of the Hayward Fault Line Section, Issue 60

Batting .359

“Mr. Gibson, can you hear me?”

Josh Gibson heard the young nurse speaking at him, recognized nervousness in her voice and wondered if he looked that bad, or if she were merely star struck to be taking care of the “black Babe Ruth”?

“God it’s dark inside my head. I sho wish I could open my eyes,” he thought, feeling his lips move but knowing he wasn’t making no sound. Last he remembered it was 1943 and he was on his way to being the best baseball player in history…in any league. “I’ve done performed some exceptional deeds in these years of mine,” Gibson decided before fading into this continued state of dream inside a dream.

He faintly recalled sitting in some group session in the mental institution listening to the counselor tell them about St. Dymphna, the patron saint of their mental conditions and him snidely shaking his head. “You can pray to her if you like, she has been known to bring miracles of the mind,” the prim older lady told them. Somehow he couldn’t find it in his heart to pray to some vaulted Irish girl, what could some little, ghost of a white girl do for him now.

He felt the seizing of his brain; the lights fractured and sounds slowly fell under the current until there was nothing. He wasn’t sure what happened really. No one told him anything. He didn’t even know what day it was.

“Mr. Gibson, you alright in there?”

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Doorknobs section, Issue 60

Going to Prison (non-fiction)

In April, I will take my daughter across the country to Arizona to visit relatives that have never been a thought in her head. I contemplated not even going, to not even open up that section of questions and family when they were never even formed, but in good conscience I could not let my bad familial ties become hers. In Arizona there are a handful of cousins I have not seen in 20 years, a niece I have never met and an uncle in prison—all of whom had always been wonderful people.

One might begin to question why I would take my daughter into a prison situation and if I am honest, I must tell you my original thought was nothing more than family. In my own life, I spent a great deal of it moving around with very loose ties to my family members so that today, as an adult, they are names and faces I know, but not people that I am attached to. I did not want this for my child—to be separated from the possibility of knowing people that could somehow change her life. After thinking about the implications of bringing a young girl to a prison, I then began to see the benefits of the visit.

In this day and age I see many children that live in a nice bubble of protection afforded for them by their parents. They grow up thinking the world is happy and shiny and that everyone in it will be nice to them. As much as it pains me to know that isn’t reality, it pains me more to think I will send my child out into the world unequipped. She is a child who does not see consequences very readily; she does not understand the world out there. I remember being eight years old and it is an impressionable time. It is when independence really starts to rear its ugly head; there are only a few years of opportunity left before the teenage years when it is hard to get children to believe anything you say. The clock is ticking.

It would be safe to say that I don’t “know” these relatives of mine anymore, but in our youth we spent a great deal of time together, suffered together, laughed together and saw the world from common view points. I have always loved these cousins I am about to visit. I have always loved their father who is in prison. He is one of the kindest and funniest men I have ever met. The question was posed to me why would a man in prison want to expose his young niece to a prison setting? I have only one answer—family. Through all the hardships of his life and that which he has put his children through, he maintains that family is the most important thing in the world. It is something we cultivate no matter how hard that might be, no matter how difficult the circumstances, because in the end it is all we have.

So after contemplating these things, I asked my daughter if she would like to visit our uncle in prison when we go and her immediate reaction was tears. As an eight year old a child she only has what she sees on cartoons and television in which to form some sort of judgment as to why people are in prison and what goes on there. She had seen enough to have fear not of the prison itself, but of what was inside. I had not expected this reaction at all. It made me laugh until I saw that she was seriously worried. I told her she could stay with her cousins while I went if it scared her and she started crying harder. I asked her why and she said “because I would be worried sick about you getting hurt.” It was valiant that she thought her going with me would somehow protect me. The thought of her very being often does, though I have never told her this.

This question sparked a conversation laden with the effects of crime, prison systems and how one leads their life. I hesitated to continue on, not knowing how to approach each subject with knowledge, but had that feeling that this opportunity may never come by again. We discussed in general the reasons why some people commit crime and I spoke of our uncle’s problem specifically—drugs. I explained to her that he has spent half his life, on two separate occasions, in prison for armed robbery attempting to get money for drugs. My daughter questioned how come he just didn’t buy more instead of doing the crime.

I realized a valuable lesson about my child and how my own protective bubble keeps her from seeing the truth of the society we live in. In her generation, everything can be purchased as easy as going to the store and swiping a card; drugs are the norm; avoiding people accepted and saying things that are judgmental is easy as breathing. The estimated value of money means nothing and her perception is if you want it, you just go get it, no problem—it will always be available. I told her buying drugs is very expensive and getting caught for buying them or robbing for money to buy them is also a crime and this makes it a crime within a crime. These actions put you in jail or prison. The strained look on her face did not lessen and she had serious doubts about this uncle of ours and whether or not it would be safe to even speak to him. Her concrete thoughts were very evident and I felt like I was spinning my wheels.

I told her a story about the time I had visited a prison once during nursing school to look at the medical wing. During this tour, we saw all the sections, even general population. It was a frightening experience as an adult. The sound of bars locking, the guns and clubs, guards everywhere, the sound of the prisoners and the feeling their eyes give you as they scan you over. Going to the cell block was the most mentally defiling experience. The level of noise unbelievable and the amount of fear I could smell on myself was intense. I knew right then that prison life was never for me and that I couldn’t even stand to work there no matter how good the benefits were.

I explained to my daughter my experience and told her that she would not have to see those scary things, but she would see prisoners in the visiting room and the guards with their guns and she would get patted down before visitation. She said, “What is an eight year old going to do to hurt prisoners? I won’t have a gun.” I found it very hard to explain these hard cold facts about the world. I wanted her to live in a nice mental garden, but wondered to myself if that would really make her ready for the world? I told her imagine standing in our walk in closet and closing the door for which you could never open when you wanted to. You had no light and you had to share that space with another person even if you didn’t like each other. All your hours are spent thinking about the mistakes you made, or how to survive in a hostile place. You have no television and no computer and you wear the same clothes all the time. You get told when you can eat and when, if you are lucky, you can go outside and feel the sun on your face and remember what life could have been like…and when you imagine all of this, you are a prisoner. I told her that sometimes, people who aren’t in jail do this to themselves when they know they have done bad things. Her face softened some and thought again about the question I had asked her.

Despite her fear, she maintained that she wanted to go and meet this uncle, stating she was scared, but wanted to do it. I admired her bravery and her character and her curiosity. I told her this would be her chance to see what happens when you don’t live your life in a good way, when you let the temptations of the world take you over until you aren’t the one making the decisions. And as we finished this conversation in silence and contemplation, we passed a crew of juvenile jail workers on the side of the road showing her that living right, starts now.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by On The Wing, Full of Crow, 9/10

These days continue

The sun burns the left side of my face,
and the wind follows cooling the skin slightly
pushing a loose hair across my nose, tickling it.

Marley on the radio sings about Jammin’
as I peer over the laptop
at delicate blushed tulips and blue flags
unfurling in light; tiger lilies wait to explode
and I think of you sitting at the table with me.

Our silence would be comfortable
with hands reaching across the space between,
fingers touching like feathers.

Love is as easy as that one movement,
as easy as spring through paned windows,
as easy as the cat at our feet,
as easy as summer music,
or as easy as fresh faced flowers tilting towards heaven.

Yes, I think of you now,
here in this moment sharing life and breath,
holding hands in the afternoon.

Aleathia Drehmer 2009

Published by Poet Plant Press, "The Love Book", 2010

Art Can't Save Me Now

There is an urgency around her neck

his finger’s watermark
left indelible from now on
changing color, solidifying
and taunting memories

          from me
          from left hooks to my jaw
          from tire marks on my mother’s bones
          from babysitter’s unrecognizable face.

I want to shake her but he has
done a fair job of that
not enough to make her leave

even though I tell her love doesn’t look like this,
doesn’t raise hands, doesn’t steal your breath by force,
doesn’t threaten icy river graves out of jealousy.

She can’t look at me
when she tells me she feels sorry
for people who have no one,
who beg her to come back
no matter what the cost.

Aleathia Drehmer 2010

Published by Poet Plant Press, "The Love Book", 2010

The Runner

Bridget ran through the park as if her life depended on it. She never bothered to look back, just ran until her face mottled purple in the heat of her working body; until there was a wide band of sweat encircling her brow. At the edge of the tree line, she stood hunched over with her hands on her knees, chest heaving for air. Her mind went completely numb after finding Jackson with blood on his hands, standing at the sink frantically scrubbing it away. She noticed a look of insanity on his face and how he smelled of panic.

Jackson didn’t notice her or hear her enter the apartment. He only knew Bridget was there when her elbow bobbled the vase of sunflowers from the table by the door. He watched them fall in slow motion; each petal golden and beautiful, perfect. He saw them smash to the floor and smiled at the green smelling water pooling on the Berber carpet like magic. Jackson could hear each drip as it launched itself from the lip of the cherry finished table. He could hear her breath as it increased and the covered gasp when the vase landed, but did not shatter. He could hear the guttural tones lifting up into her throat though not escaping her mouth.

“Bridget….close the door” Jackson said.

She stood there unable to move. Her mind racing “What has he done? What has he done?” over and over like a chant. Bridget felt stuck with fear as he began to move from behind the counter towards her. She felt her skin rile up and the acid in her stomach began to boil and burn her esophagus. “Ten years,” she thought, “and I don’t even know him.”

He advanced on her and she began to back up instinctively, her hands flying up in front of her as if they would stop the bulk of his fury. There was a storm on his face she had never seen before, though it was so distinct, she wondered how she never noticed it resting there latent all these years. Bridget felt her back ram into the edge of the door and she cried out in pain, stumbling. Jackson’s blood-stained hands reached out to take her arm, still wet and smelling of darkness. He wrapped his fingers around her left bicep with a fierce grip, squeezing the tips into Bridget’s flesh until it blanched beneath them. She wrenched her arm backwards and surprisingly it came free, leaving someone else’s blood transferred onto her pale skin.

Bridget looked at it a split second before she turned and started running. Her feet flew down the stairs—floated like she did when she was a child. Jackson lumbered after her, shouting things she could not understand or process. The only sounds that registered were the thumping of her heart, the blood rushing in her ears, and the quickening of breath that pinched her ribs.

She stood there now, alone; nothing more than an accordion of flesh letting the body regulate itself and waiting for the sounds of life again that would ease her back into reality. Bridget felt a wind sweep up and dry the salt to her forehead. She felt the chilling deep inside her bones as her breath suddenly lightened and her limbs relaxed into themselves. She crouched on the ground with the smell of the grass under her nose. This somehow settled her as the first drops of rain began to fall. She felt like a pebble in the river, something far beneath the surface that could not be seen or touched. And in the juxtaposition of light, Bridget watched the bloody fingerprints begin to dissolve and run down her arm. “Some things,” she said aloud to no one, “are best learned in storm.”

Aleathia Drehmer 2008

Published by Full of Crow Fiction 10/10