He stands in the small corner yard
in a carpet of mown-over clover
like a guardsman among her things
packed tightly in cardboard cages,
watching her go.
His eyes damp, a bent smile –
She stands on the sidewalk
on a black grungy crack
Turning to go,
her long red hair a vixen’s flame,
She looks back over her shoulder
Her green eyes are flint that strike sparks
And light a fire in the sky.
Lightning strikes and an old oak splits in two.
Mother stops ironing; hovers above a badly
wrinkled landscape. Dad bangs in the door bringing
with him the sweet smell of gardenias.
Crosses the den in three long steps.
Picks up the screaming phone that is tethered
to the wall with a spiral cord. Caroline,
with her ebony hair and Snow White face, is dead.
Extracted from a pile of twisted metal and broken glass;
she survived for two short December days.
A Christmas Eve funeral. Ice encapsulates
Every rose falling from her casket.
That night and for the next 29 years,
she speaks to me in dreams. Always sitting in a green-painted,
wooden chair. The room, plain and dark, she turns to me:
Her face becomes a movie reel, shows details of a life I didn’t know
all that well: tent camping on white-sand beaches in France, dancing ballet
with grace and fluidity, a tender first time making love, and a rape
last year on the Country Club’s freshly mowed lawn.
She turns to me and plays for me a Christmas
Special: “Things Worse Than Death”
The hot, naked paunch of a filthy man
suspended over you. The sweat from
his hair falling in your eyes, his
fluid tacky, pooling on your stomach
and inside your ripped underwear,
the cool, slick edge of a sharp knife
meeting the thin skin at your neck so that you
swallow all screams
Janet Doggett has a master’s degree in creative writing from Texas Tech University and has had many creative nonfiction essays published in journals, most notably, So-to-Speak and Tangent. Also, she has published essays on websites such as Celiac.com and The New England Writer’s Society. A poem, Death, Maybe? recently was published (#20) in Drown In My Own Fears. Three poems are to be published through scar publications in Down in the Dirt magazine in March 13, April 13 and May 13. In 2003, I won the best writing award as a graduate student at the Albuquerque Pop Culture Conference. I live in Massachusetts.