days in a week

pristine immunity
was never a truth,
but there is a point to
the simplest things.

apples, little globes
of water contained
with a charge so subtle
we can barely hear it.

with every itch, every
prick at the folds of
our skin, drying through
another nebulous day.

it’s the shock of it,
cold as swing set steel
that prompts us to sketch
stick figures ever lost.

we wrap ourselves up
and wear bubble wrap
masks, and cut into our
palest, stained jeans.

blue bodies and white
exhalations reveal our
struggle, knowing no one
alleged to cry “wolf.”

we wait, breathing in
the rubber cement, its
pungent, hard denial toying
with life’s unsure lips.

Frenzied Diaspora

the roots have been severed
as dirt hits my face.
gravel that flies in anyone’s path
when pedestrian anticipation
and the calm of linens in a miniature loft
do leave us forgetting
that perhaps it’s a deed
of passion’s authenticity.
an apple core blanched
with an immunity to chemical change.

septuagenarian marriages
can and do exist
on bridges that laugh
at the pettiness of bottlenecked highways.

he loves her.

but all is pulled unbeknownst
to the woman in the beige trench coat.
a suitcase clasped, and papers brittle
with a squirming temptation
to throw up her hands,
and say, “I’m done.”

wander for love.
the things we see two blocks from home.
fingernails of soot, roots unbraided
and a scowl to the sky,
for April comes.

I shake my head and remember
that I actually carried pockets.
but never was I quite careful,
as to where I handled cash.

foreign marigolds lay.
legs and all, maimed in evening’s quiet.

Pre-order Connie Undone on Amazon. Or, buy a signed copy from me directly for $12. 

Dust Bunnies

A bouquet of dust bunnies in my head. Dirty, battered feet.

I didn’t want to leave this bed today, but I did, because I’m motivated by stupid, babyish things. Like that dress and sweater I cast aside last night, to wear today. With pantyhose three shades darker than my natural skin tone.

I grow paler everyday, and I think this gray tooth, it’s pretty much decaying. But that’s okay. Braces were something I wanted so badly, at thirteen years old. Nearing twenty-three, I realized any sensible person doesn’t care about how straight and flawless your teeth are.

I am that off-putting kid whose everyday happenings mirror that of a “Bad Luck Brian” meme. I don’t mean to, but when I just want to fulfill someone’s request to write a letter every once in a while, and only scare that person away, what’s the point of a pen pal?

If I were coordinated, and my parents cared to put me in dance lessons as soon as one possibly could, well, I would have left that showing of Black Swan thinking, “Woah, I can totally relate!” Just like every sad young girl who reads or watches something gripping and wants to somehow take a piece of that everywhere she goes. Primarily to job interviews.

I said I’d visit you back in September, but mid-month I decided not to. How in the hell do you start life anew?

The dust bunnies sit back, and drink their cognac and sing their songs. I grind my teeth at 3 AM, and rock myself back and forth. I almost hit the wall. The bunnies, the accidental boo boos, my abused molars. These are too real (well, maybe not the bunnies, but you never know).

But I do not need to be told, for the septillionth time, that they were birthed out of a scoffing towards God. It’s an unsolicited answer communicated so often that I wonder if it’s true.

And if those who so fervently relay the message get some sort of commission, amounts vary by circumstance.

Pre-order Connie Undone on Amazon. Or, buy a signed copy from me directly for $12. 

Insecure Dusk

“Hey! Do you work at Happy’s?”

My knees bounced, chin persistently pressed against my chest barely heaving. The purple visor concealed my blush, but the black cardigan was too iconic.

***

“You’re a natural beauty,” he said, as I snuck him the cup from McDonald’s that I filled with Dr. Pepper. He and his friend. James and Austin. This was two weeks prior. They spoke to me as my father would have drunk from a dirty glass, cursing a shortage of real alcohol. I’ve had few problems attracting men, though snaring genuine intrigue’s long been hard.

“My boss doesn’t think so,” I looked to my gravy-stained apron, placing my hands in pockets, handling cash though I was told this was “gross for a waitress to do.” The police officer had a word with the manager, who told him I was new to food service. “‘Stay in school’ is what you tell her, my friend. She won’t stand a chance anywhere else. There will always be a need for college professors.”

I retold the exchange to Julie and Lane, both of them shaking their heads, giving me a hug, announcing “I’d never marry someone if he did that on a date.” And many a ring we saw declined. Always after six in the early dusk. Eleven hours more. I walked, cleaned, squirted whipped cream, ladled ranch dressing, and told dirty jokes until five in the morning. Usually.

James and Austin strangely didn’t ask for chicken fried steak. Though James caressed my contaminated palms, asked me to sit down, and smiled as I made small talk about friends I knew who paid off their debts by pole dancing. The couple I served five feet away promptly rose, leaving me nothing.

“Say, the Smithson Motel just down the street’s open twenty-four hours. We’re staying there tonight. A business trip.” Austin was the one who never spoke.

“I’m here until five.” I remembered the teacher who waited for her salad at the bar. “What would we do anyway?”

“Eh, we were just gonna kick it with some chicks. Would be nice if you’d join us. Got some Malibu rum in a cooler. Let me write you the room on this receipt.”

“Sir, I’m afraid I can’t.” Howard slid a bowl of drenched lettuce down the aisle from the kitchen. I hurried to make my delivery. Then I returned to a Sharpie scrawl, dark as the sky I could see through the bullet hole lodged above the two young men in their loafing.

“Your number, here.” An arrow beneath, a line etched an ant’s worth from the bottom of the receipt. Reading men was always hard.

I blinked, trying to make up a number as I already fabricated a good twelve. I gave them a code, and James brought his phone to make the call. Just to make sure I knew how to reach him.

“I, please. Guys, I really can’t—”

“No worries! We’ll pick you up at five. The motel’s down the street.”

“I, look. Are you like this with every waitress?”

Jason crossed his arms, spread his legs to reveal his inner thighs stained with what I wanted to think was soy sauce or maple syrup. I didn’t inquire.

“Sweetie, you’re a special girl. An intelligent one. Not many girls just take a seat and talk to the patrons the way you do. It’s not that they’re snooty or anything. It’s just, they lack the capacity.”

“Excuse me?”

“Honey, what I mean to say is when we hook up with girls, we prefer them to be intelligent. Look, we didn’t buy dinner. But we’ll tip you well. I promise.”

“Give me a minute.”

I rarely blushed, and this time, blanched. My face with its dry patches, resembling a waxing moon, its craters void of life. My shortcomings often revolved around crafting a polite declination. It’s something I still can’t do.

I spoke to the manager who told me of the police offer’s dissatisfaction with my skills.

“Consuela, all men are dogs.”

“Of course,” I picked at a hangnail.

Josue looked on as the boss walked over to where James sipped from his not-from-Happy’s cup. Josue was aware of the jaunty exchange but washed our dishes to the mantra of equal opportunity. “Women, they’re not infants,” he’d say, pointing at me to reiterate that really, I should know better.

Austin glared without a word. Jason tipped his hat my way. “Don’t be so presumptuous,” he greasily cooed.

“Ah, no shame.” Josue patted my shoulder. “But look, they left you a tip!”

At their emptied booth laid the smeared request. And a dollar. His phone number crassly added, whining like a dog confined for retaliatory defecation.

“Don’t be insecure,” Josue pointed his lips. “Don’t be giving it away, just because a guy says you’re pretty.”

“I don’t.”

“But so many do, Consuela. Just the other night, some girl got raped by a man she ran into on the bus.” The waitstaff only called me Consuela as I resembled a character in some eighties movie. A mousy girl with academic promise, working in her father’s restaurant all through dusk, forsaking homework that was due the morning after.

“I’ve learned not to talk to men on the bus.”

“And so you used David as your reference to work here.” David, I met at a bus stop. His tip book convinced me to try waiting tables. Wipe away vomit, lie about life, pretend to be the girlfriend of a rich old man. Albeit in a fashion laughable.

Barely concealed by the purple hat, I glanced at James to see blackened scabs. An altercation, or crystal meth. I continued with my presumptions. He skimmed through the Classifieds, looking for work.

***

“No, I can’t say I work there.”

“Oh, okay. Just, you look familiar.” He looked out the window, into the fog of one a.m., when no cars passed. The bus driver called for me to get off, as I lugged my bag of newspapers. My second job when Happy’s gave me a break from long evenings.

I ran with all I had, from imaginary predators.

Connie Undone, my first novel, officially comes out on March 1st. But you can pre-order it on Amazon for $18.99. If you’d like a pre-ordered, signed copy, Venmo me at KristineBrown1918, and for a limited time, I’ll send you a paperback for $12, if you’re a U.S. resident. If you’re outside of the United States and would like a copy, let me know, and we’ll work something out. I’ve decided to challenge myself by writing a poem for the first 250 purchasers of Connie Undone. I’ll write the poem on the subject of your choice. Include the subject along with your mailing information if you are buying a copy from me. If you prefer to buy books on Amazon, just send me a screenshot as proof of purchase, and I’ll get started on your poem!

Connie Undone is Now Available for Pre-ordering!

Hello, all! I hope you are well. I’ve been rather busy the last several months, but I would like to announce that my first novel, Connie Undone, is available for pre-ordering starting today! Officially, the paperback comes out on March 1st, but in the meantime, you can snag a copy on Amazon for $18.99.

If you’d still like to pre-order Connie Undone, but would rather buy a copy from me directly, let me know! I am selling signed copies to U.S. residents for $12, via Paypal or Venmo (@KristineBrown1918). If you live outside the United States, let me know, and we can negotiate on price. And, if you buy one of the first 250 copies, I’ll write you a poem on a subject of your choice! I can either email or mail you the poem, depending on your preference. Those who pre-order in the next few weeks should receive their copies of Connie Undone sometime in late February. 

And for those who like to exclusively purchase books via Amazon, just send me a screenshot showing that you’ve made a purchase, and I’ll still write you a poem!

Here’s a brief teaser for Connie Undone:

“Where do you find these people?”

This question was all too common concerning the events of Connie’s summer right out of college. Some people asked this sympathetically, while others shook their heads in pointed disapproval. For Connie, things weren’t going as planned. But in several months, she would learn to accept that detours, in all their uncertainty, laid a necessary foundation for a budding plan unseen.

For more than a decade, Connie often felt that she lived in a dull city, but was scared to venture out. We could attribute her self-sheltering to social anxiety and several years of codependency. Connie Undone seeks to dwell not on the negatives of what happened after a first serious breakup, but rather, documents the beginning of life after college, and one’s path towards self-reliance and acceptance.

***

Thank you for your kind readership. Writing is always wonderful.

– Kristine

the shamelessness of sticker shock

I am the remainder.
that “Merry and Bright” that
whispers from shrunken windows
of overcrowded shops.

your grievances scurry to the edge
of a lopsided bed :: and rainfall
writes hurried speeches, made
heavy but not too pedantic, thanks
to the stutter that feeds the dead.

midnight comes too frequently,
and I throw away the last of my
birthday matches, those gracing
pastel cakes, lemon icing crying
that it’s so unfair, the dry center.

I pay them my retainer.
that dark “I promise” that
flings itself from tired shingles
onto many an unwashed car.

Cat No. 134 of the 500 Cats Project

demons, stigma, pills

I. the couple afar
you must admit, you do not
possibly know of
the tyrannical screaming
that has brought their walls to sand.

II. and you still persist
in these monologues, postgrads
bringing you to shame
for causes you can’t place one
thumb upon; likely, a sketch.

III. girl from that first job,
the one who dated your first,
a reed-like ideal
you had long sought to fulfill
with Vitamin C tablets.

IV. an odd fixation
your friend attributes to the
per-pin-dick-you-lar
cycles of rage, blind rainstorms
emergency lights shone through.

V. he has left you, then
so surely the effort was
a waste in methods,
years snuck away, and never
did you grace Vogue’s bold pages.

VI. medias rojas.
I wear these to look pretty.
my mother slaps me
though unlike Claudio, she
peddles my song, not my rose.

VII. fantastic Lauren
has been the blessed, to earn
four years of study
while Mother will always break
what liberal arts relieves.

VIII. my shaking, my throat
the pipe where toads so madly
screech, an anthem to
critics and teachers alike,
tests I could fail for decades.

IX. gardenias fly,
reminders of your placid
ambitions asleep,
a vegetative movie
lacking captions to explain.

X. I rid myself of
mediums that aggravate,
infect this bandaged
open wound where gangrene speaks
slowly, nothing true to say.

XI. he turns to face me
and asks with authority,
“What if all you’ve told
yourself are Benjamins, fake?”
well, I guess I won’t spend them.

XII. but the illusion,
I suppose, can tempt young girls
into keeping them.
fragilities, in the end,
moan cautiously—dreams unchanged.