:: Article

Two Poems

By Elizabeth J. Colen.

Survival of the Species

If I knew my mother would slap me for saying she married for money, I would have done it sooner. The red hand on my cheek speaks of love. The mirror smiles and caresses. I look just like her. If I had known my father then I would have said anything to get his attention. But the wind warps the trees so that the ground has that warmsick staticky feel. The way the sunlight comes through the leaves, when the leaves move. It’s unfair to think of darkness on a day like today even when the sun leaves. If my mother knew I liked women the way she likes men, she would have hung me. My brother likes women too. The Bible says he is O.K. My sister so far likes small dogs and singing hymns. My brother swings from the garage. My brother breaks the beam.

After the Fire

When I was seven my mother was pregnant with you. I remember she was sad for a time, saw no one, did not answer the door, the phone, did not open mail. The doors all clicked when they shut. She locked herself in the bedroom we shared. We had moved back home to her parents again. I only knew she was pregnant later, when her stomach pushed out of her size 4 jeans. Then I remembered the sadness. One day mother stood against the wall. I found her there, holding the door jamb, her head down, breathing hard. She said, “get the doctor.” I didn’t know what she meant. “I’m seven,” I said. She told me I was insolent. I didn’t know what that meant either. When her mother came home they drove away in the van. That night I dreamt she came home with no belly, no you. Her stomach was flat like before when I used to push the round of my fatness into last year’s tiny pants. The waistband left a red line around my middle like I’d been cut in two. I was always growing and she stayed the same, except for you babies. In the dream she held a rock the size of a grownup’s fist and said it was what she had carried inside. Sans baby she seemed more content. She was back to size 4. She smoked cigarette after cigarette. No one hit anyone. The rock was shiny and you. I was so happy I ran through the house with a box full of matches. And then you arrived three months later, a month after the wedding, long after the fire.

Elizabeth J. Colen is an obscure functionary cultivating harmless eccentricities. She has lived in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest. Recent poetry and prose of hers has appeared or is forthcoming from Redivider, Knockout, Pebble Lake Review, and the Bellingham Review. Recent accomplishments include being shortlisted for Rose Metal Press’s Short Short Fiction Chapbook Contest, learning to knit, and getting married in Canada to her favorite person in the world.


First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, July 21st, 2007.