TWO POEMS by Melissa Crowe

/ / Issue 19, Uncategorized


              with apologies to my brother, 11 months clean

The boy who cried sunlight, summer rain, 
bird-in-the-bush, in the hand, who cried 
fiddleheads, brook trout, berries in the field 
by the chicken house, again and again

who cried lilacs, from each bloom 
a hit of nectar and nothing to fear— 
he’d pretended for so long the all clear 
while something hungry paced the room 

that even when of true wolflessness 
he made a bouquet so pretty and perfumed 
nobody in her right mind could presume 
it wasn’t flowers, I called it beast, 

saw in the gold-dusted mouth of each bud
a dogtooth sharp enough to draw blood.




I was there on the day my mother married—
I’ve seen photographs of her in her borrowed 
dress, bodice of a taller friend wrinkled 
at her waist, slack satin pooling at her feet. 

Her forehead shines above a startled smile, 
and my sudden stepfather, in a rented tux 
of powder blue, just looks glad. There I am, 
too, tucked between them on my final day 

of being five years old. I don’t remember 
the ceremony or the reception, the kind I’d 
later love when my mother’s younger brothers 
wed their first or second wives at the Elks club 

or the VFW, center of the room cleared 
for a dance floor, tables pushed to the walls 
and spread with crockpots of cabbage rolls, 
spam salad spooned into hotdog buns. 

Beer bottles and ashtrays. Uncles with their 
sleeves rolled up, Red Wings buffed of mud. 
When they weren’t twirling girlfriends 
with spaghetti straps and long-long hair, 

pulling them close for the slow tunes, 
they lifted me into their arms so I could hug 
their whiskered necks. There’d have been 
a deejay and gallons of milk mixed with Kahlua, 

a dollar dance, man after man paying to twirl 
my mother a little, money for the honeymoon, 
one night in a cabin at Portage Lake then back 
to the shoe factory. But I only remember 

the paper bell I found taped to a table that night, 
miracle the way I could close its feathers so 
easily, conceal the whole voluminous thing 
between two half-bells of card, then open it 

as swiftly as lungs can fill with breath. 
Like hands that part to reveal what I’d 
wished for bent at the bedside, what I’d seen 
in my head and whispered into the dark. 

I could almost have believed I heard it ringing, 
that tissue bell, marvelous flat nothing 
come to song. I kept it a long time, precious—
and then I guess I lost it. I guess we all did.