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a hot winged weekend comes to take me away
and like any sensible person on her front porch,
I sit awhile, nod my head, listen to the word
of the plastic pelicans, pinwheels shimmering
behind them – the finest background dancers.

my brother rests on an elevated plane, and I
dart my head towards the direction you’d like
to take, as if I know where you’re headed, as
if I’ve been there and could tell you how many
threads have contracted their lives to a doormat.

I keep my word, but as for my brother, his
memory is one built on convenience, tufts of
gray cotton bordering his neck like Elizabethan
collars, regal and intimidating like the elders
who scare you from asking necessary questions.

you’ve come to me with questions, and I’ve got
nothing but scarcity on this one plot of land, the
smoothness in froth-less coffee waking us up
as the heat of an unforgiving summer awakens
each wrist to rotate, clockwise and cautious.

the cars line up, the ants line up, and the weeds
grow unevenly, like brittle eyelashes rooted in
place for as long as you’d like to stay, for as long
as you’d like to tell me that nothing is wrong, and
water from floppy hoses tastes like guava nectar.

Cat No. 136 of the 500 Cats Project

Connie Undone is on sale at Amazon. Or, get a signed copy from me directly for $12, plus a handwritten poem on a topic of your choice.

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. 

January 2016

I could not provide an answer,
nor could I gesticulate
as my veins curled similarly
to roundworms in cats’ rejection.

murmured the name of the medical scribe
but I stared at the doctor, pale
as the white coat I already sullied
with my lower middle class and ignorance.

flickering, the ceiling insulted the charity bed
that funds the frostbitten—frequent fliers
I could hear miles away,
for the morphine disappointed like decaf.

I wouldn’t return to work,
and that is what I wanted
but only in those hours
when I felt I did no good.

there was no pillow to clutch
and I had worn down all my brushes
used to glue together a quiet collage
of words in Helvetica you never meant.

I do not wish to taste
wet saltines of an awkward love
but I managed to sleep on thumbtacks
for a boy who had no time.

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

hungry equality

consensus declares
that a lick from a dog
is worth far less
than a cat’s slow wink.

before the dog’s eyes,
you sit, blemishes
airbrushed through grain
and accepted, like undone ribbons
of VHS cassettes, their tops
glistening like cured resin on tile
one finds on tables yielding meat
that any girl may offer for trust.

eventually, you will admit
that this dog is just one
of the five that kissed your hand
and the few warming up to your meal.

it will tell you
in rhythmic nudges
that people are not interesting,
though that one Saturday
introductions played their tricks
as the dog continued to ask
how you could just walk
so ignorant of your depth.

you committed no wrong
as the dog moved quickly,
perhaps in a two-hour span
to yet another slice cooked medium rare.

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!

approaching some kind of diplomacy

hungry for something
sharper than mint.

this is my first invitation,
and although I lack the
qualifications to advise you
on how to deal with those
noisy neighbors, I do have
pointed ears, open and aware
of the crackling, your knuckles
gone pale from lost sleep.

once I was told that there is
a difference, that judgment didn’t
count against us if we took time
to assimilate, to foster these
saplings like the tastiest of greens,
drizzled in the kindness of cheap
olive oil, almost odorless and clear
like the tears we’ve swallowed out
of bitterness, our confusion tucked
beneath fraying and grayed pillows
gone hard between hospital walls.

gone for just a weekend,
but the floor screeches like
overworked vinyl, and I am
unsure that it is my smirk that
set the pundits off, that divided
the schoolgirls who come to class
a little after six in the morning,
brandishing their plastic spoons.

huddled beneath
our implacable sun.

Cat No. 135 of the 500 Cats Project

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

when we wake up at five

doormat, or a shower curtain.

I am not sure which box to
select before the deadline.

weakness rolls off shoulders
while mosquitoes gather near
crooked toes, and I try to count
the pores across your face as
the mirror laughs at my hands,
curled and gray as fallen trees.

you walk towards the armoire
as I trace these sleeping tracks.

wordlessness, or censure.

Cat No. 133 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.