The Fine Print: Featured Works
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I want to be buried in a pauper’s grave
underneath the roots of a distinguished tree
I want a young troubadour to lay down
and rest his soul on the wise sturdy oak
Singing-Strumming, to my beautiful eulogy.
You wouldn’t be sent an invitation to attend
You will know when to come when the wind shifts
and you feel the rhythm within your bones to follow.
And we will all be gathered jackknives in hand
carving fantastical stories into the oak’s base
working our way up…
‘till the leaves bear fruit.
And we will all step back with a long glorious gaze
all in one accord, wind in breath and in spirit claim:
Here lies a beautiful Eulogy.
And when the looters come, they’ll find me dancing in His Glory.
She Wears Prada
Morning came and the night chill falls off my stiff form
My partner beside my right still dormant
With her tongue still hanging out but oh, how I love her
I do remember the moment I set my eye on her and I knew she was my sole mate
No words rolled off my tongue and I stood there speechless
What do you say to your other half?
I could say how she treads quietly, your heel is gorgeous or maybe her designer name?
But all I said was “nice laces”
How dumb could I be! But she responded “for once the left is right!”
And she tugged my laces and clicked our heels for the first time and I knew we were quite the pair.
My deepest apology
For loving you without consent
For holding you in my heart
Until the very end
Never was I burdened
Nor was I weary
Knowing you filled my life with bliss
My source of hope
The words I did not speak
Dies with me tonight
My only regret
That my admiration of your smile remains unsaid
A love so fierce, but confined
Finally released with this last breath
To the very end I loved
"Barnacle Bill's Abode" by Emmaline Kempf
"Arched Tree" by Jesse Williams
"Impressions of an 1800's Immigrant" by Petra Brown
If there was anything of which Colette was sure, it was that her mother Mae was beautiful. Mae had a beautiful face, but it was her laugh that really enchanted her features. It was a lantern in the dark for Colette, and she strived every darkness to find it.
And the darkness came often.
“What are you doing? I asked you to count the quarters.”
“I am counting the quarters.”
Mae raised an eyebrow. Colette was sitting on the floor with the coins in question scattered out around her. Some were stacked and some were lined up, while nearly all were laid out in shapes of some sort.
“How does drawing shapes in quarters count as counting them?”
Colette huffed, annoyed that she had to explain such an obvious thing. “First of all, it’s not shapes, it’s pictures. Second of all, I am counting them. Each picture has a certain number of quarters. The faerie is five quarters, the flower is seven quarters, the fire is seven quarters, and the dragon is thirteen quarters. Five plus seven plus seven plus thirteen is…” Colette paused to contemplate with her eyes scrunched closed in concentration, “thirty-two.”
Mae smiled and kissed Colette on the forehead, “How’d you get so smart?”
Colette rolled her eyes but smiled warmly, “my mommy taught me. Duh!”
“So you’re a smarty-pants too, huh?” Mae leaned down and tickled Colette. And the two laughed together.
“Come on, smarty-pants. It’s time.”
The Laundromat always smelled sickly sweet. It reminded Colette of a flower soaked in the stuff her mom always rubbed on her burns. But she stopped asking about it because it always made her mom nervous when she did. Besides, she never answered anyways.
Mae rarely took Colette to the Laundromat. But on a rare few days every other weekend, it was safer than leaving her at home.
“Colette, stay close to me,” she whispered as she leaned in to kiss her cheek.
As much as Colette hated the Laundromat, she loved to help her mother that much more. Besides, she was an expert at sorting colors anyways. She always separated all the colors into four piles: reds, greens and whites for Christmas; blues, blacks and yellows for bruises; purples, pinks and oranges for the stupid girly colors; and the browns and multicolored clothes she called the “wilds” like in the card game Uno.
For Colette, the worst part was the “waiting place.” She knew they couldn’t leave because people would steal their clothes, but she wanted to. The people who came here were scary. There was old Ms. Martinez, who never smiled or said “hello” back. There was Mr. Jones, who never took his eyes off the floor the whole time. There was the man whose name Colette did not know, who mumbled to himself and just sat there not doing laundry.
But the ones Colette were most afraid of were the older boys walking through the door as they sat waiting. They reminded her of the mean boys from West Side Story. Colette shrunk closer to her mom.
“Colette, what’s wrong?” Mae whispered, putting her arm around the girl, and eyeing the boys who had entered.
“Those are the boys I was telling you about!” She whispered back as quietly as a frightened little girl can muster.
“I see,” said Mae. Colette stared up at her with hopeful eyes. She knew how protective her mother was. She knew her mom would yell at those boys and tell them to leave her alone.
Mae hugged Colette tight. “Don’t move, Colette. Stay here and don’t look up from your lap.”
The girl opened her mouth to object, frightened. What was her mother going to do?
But Mae stood up and eyed Colette to make sure she did as she was told. Colette was too afraid to move. Colette stared at her lap, but she couldn’t help but peek up to watch her mother.
The boys never came here to do laundry. They came here to shoot hoops. Everyone knew that. There were no basketball courts or nets in the neighborhood, so they came to the Laundromat to use the washers, dryers and laundry carts as hoops. They pushed and shoved and used up the machines, but no one ever complained because they were afraid of them too.
Mae walked straight up to them. “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt your game, especially when you’re doing so well, but I was wondering if you would give me a moment of your time.” She made direct eye contact with one boy in particular.
All of the boys stopped, watching the one she was talking to with choking intensity. For a moment the boy just looked at her. His eyes moving up and down. Then he laughed at her, nodding to the other boys. “Sure, lady. Watcha want with me?” He smiled suggestively, but Colette could tell by the way his eyes narrowed that his thoughts were elsewhere and her mom was walking on shaky ground.
“Do you know my daughter Colette?” Mae pointed to her and she quick dropped her eyes back down to her lap.
The boy looked over at her, then back at Mae. His smile was gone. “What’s it to ya?”
It sounded like a question. It wasn’t. Colette knew. It was a warning.
“Well there are these boys in the neighborhood who are threatening her and scaring her. And I know you’ve got your own things going on. But I was wondering if you could all protect her for me. I know you guys are tough, and no one will mess with you. If you’re willing, I know you can keep her safe.”
Mae spoke confidently and sweetly but so quickly that Colette imagined she must have heard her wrong. The boy paused to think for a barely-discernable second. The other boys watching, waiting.
“Of course I will, Ma’am. We can do that for her, can’t we, men?” The boys nodded earnestly in consent.
The boy looked back at Mae with pride in his eyes. “Don’t worry, Ma’am. On our block, your daughter is safe. We won’t let anyone bother her.”
“Oh, thank you all so much,” Mae gushed. “You have no idea what that means to me.”
“Colette,” Mae said sternly when they got back home. “I said come here.”
Colette crossed her arms and turned away.
The little girl huffed and peeked over her shoulder at her mother. Mae was sitting on the floor with her legs crossed and her arms open.
Colette crawled over into her mother’s lap and crossed her arms again.
“Colette, I know why you’re mad at me.”
The little girl glanced up, raising an eyebrow.
Mae continued, “You thought I was going to reprimand those boys.”
Colette cut her off. “But you didn’t! You let them get away with it! They can’t protect me when they are the ones bothering me.” Tears streamed down her cheeks, and Mae wiped them away.
“Listen, Colette, I know you don’t understand just yet, but I promise you that was the best thing I could have done to protect you.”
Colette sighed which caused her to sniffle. “Is this one of those catching-bees-with-honey-not-vinegar lectures?”
Mae laughed warmly, hugging Colette tight. “No, my sweet, brilliant Colette. This is one of those expectations lectures. When you expect someone to do all the wrong things, sometimes people begin to believe that’s all they’re capable of doing. Sometimes people need to hear that they can do the right thing and make the right choices. It reminds them that they have a choice and a responsibility in everything they do.”
Colette bit her lip. “I don’t think I fully understand. That’s confusing.”
Mae smiled. “You will understand it before you know it,” she promised. Mae went to stand up.
“Were you scared?”
“I was very scared.”
Colette smiled. “I always knew you were beautiful. I didn’t know you were brave too!”