Memory of a Pool Shark
You told me I was a good shot,
the same way you praised me
when I knocked that eight ball
into the corner pocket before you could.
I had to call them out loud,
when the game got too close.
We’d practice in a local pool hall
where I was allowed
free refills of Shirley Temples
and as many quarters as I could carry
to the jukebox. On the weekends
we’d take on a team of barfly townies,
in some pub over the mountain.
They’d see that pool cue towering
over my summer-sun lit hair, wide eyes
batting and figure it was a father humoring
a daughter, an easy enough steal.
Then, I’d scratch on the break, miss
the first couple high balls, warming
up the way you’d taught me. Soon,
we’d both bring it home, banking shots
off the sides, behind our backs, watching
the dropped jaws fall as I’d tighten up
on those angles and sink one shot
after another. Then, I would smile
my toothy grin, my tiny face-up palm,
demanding they pay up, fair and square,
watching the greasy bills piling into it.
You’d lean back then, grinning beneath
a handlebar mustache, saying
Girl, you done good. I wanted to know
if winning would always be so easy,
aiming with one eye closed,
the other focused on a ball or bird
still in flight, some shot
I was born to sink.
Lamentation of the Mouse
We were only crawling inside to get warm,
still those traps went off all night. We heard
each equilibrium breaking, those springs coming
loose, hammers falling, the splintering of spinal
columns, skeletal axis’ severed. Don’t you recall
the shatter of bones and marrow as each soft body
gave way? They were pinned every night. Tonight
that bar caught your tiny foot so tight the skin
was wrenched from the bone. You could have chewed
your own leg off. Had you really no choice to scuttle
that way? That gory plank towed around,
before you finally bled out beneath the rocking chair.
That’s where they hid the peanut butter and cheese.
You knew better, than the toddlers and puppies
that came later. I imagined those wires snapping closed,
the stilted monstrosities like stiff wooden louses.
Louses on mouses, remembering the shifting of dishes,
the nibbling. Once, I startled the man in his sleep.
When he sprang from his bed, I flew through the air.
I only needed some bedding, but expected
something sooner, always with the break of spine
and neck, a swift and lucky way to die. One day,
you’ll drag yourself room room to room, until you bleed
out, just like the animal you were born to be. They will
just throw your velvety-hide out the nearest window.
Tonight will be different. Someone will turn on a light
and you won’t be able to hide by scurrying
from countertop and into the breadbox.
The Secret to Survival
You never put all your eggs in one bromeliad
or counted your tadpoles before they’d hatched,
or hinged your faith on that, the budding bulge
where protruding limbs had begun to bud.
You were too bewildered by their fragility
and escaped into the willows to watch
their slaughter from a safe distance. Did you ever feel
inept, even momentarily, hating the jagged edges
of yourself as you realized lily pad blossoms were fleshier
than you had ever been, more equipped to nurture?
No. You planted yourself on the bank across the way,
to watch the latest brood ravaged, the way they went
opaque in the sun. Without missing a beat, you laid
a hundred more eggs in their place, coolly replaced
each casualty. So methodically indifferent
to the bearing, such bequeathed redundancy of origin,
the cloudy masses you no longer identified with.
You expelled one foamy batch after another, the latest
one indistinguishable from the last, able to afford
such reckless gravidity without pause. Then you sculled
at the edge of them as well, keeping one idle eye prying
on the wretched prospects which rarely shattering
into reality. Those fluky oddballs emerged lacking luster,
dusky-grey blobs that waggled unremittingly. You objected
to this, their slack build, primitive tail, poorly developed
gills. The armless, the tailless, the tongue-less state
embarrassed you. You resented their inability to scream
out as the heron swallowed a dozen flanking siblings,
the ones hiding at the underbelly of floating grasses.
You were privy to the way those bodies grew
tapered with time. Those few enduring creatures
who’d begun to feed off the yolk of their own insides.
It was like watching a thing give birth to itself,
a gradual overture towards beauty as nature’s formula
took hold, evoking balanced ratios of proportion within
each body of the static lagoon. The lucky ones,
still appear like unpredictable neighbors, planting
themselves at the water’s edge. These few will prove
fruitful; matching the pitchforked precision
with which you harpoon damselflies. Every cold-blooded
bullfrog on that fringe will swell with pride, each upturned
snout aimed at the heavens, much obliged at a chance to savor
this resonance; the croaking of each doomed creature
which has begun to huff and puff, relishing in the guttural
calls of copulation, esteemed by the impossibility
of existence, that all the self-worth they’ve gulped down,
comes up at once, as they deem their own death rattle
as the only miracle, worth crooning lullabies over.
Ode to the Harvestmen
Flies are resilient, appearing when they sense the peaches
going ripe, growing yeast. You, a microbe, eating the fruit,
and spitting up alcohol. This was how I envisioned you,
stepfather, appearing past bedtime, rolling in like larvae,
smelling like maggots wriggling in their own frothy rot,
stinking like a sour mop in the corner of my room.
You’d hatch at twilight, ruby eyes glowing, cherry snout
rooting in the kitchen, seeking fermentation, bee to honey.
I gathered daddy longlegs in the mudroom, clutched
each one in my hands, amassing my own secret army
of arachnids, housed beneath wine glasses, trying to fatten them
with slugs, caterpillars. They drew in all six limbs through
gnashed jaws, washing before every meal, and soon molted,
splitting open, one by one, taking twenty minutes to drag
their springy legs from old casings. emerging hungry.
I put those transformed troops in a bucket, watched
the way they gathered, linked limbs together. Small,
velvety-red clover mites clung to some. This is how
I envisioned my mother, the way she hung on too tightly.
Stepfather, I wanted to rip your parts off like a stepchild
tearing the wings off a pest then watching them scamper,
flightless on a windowsill, dropping you, wingless
into the teeming pail of predators, mumbling
“Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
Teisha Twomey is currently working on her MFA in Poetry at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and interns at Wilderness House Press. Teisha’s work has appeared in Ibbetson Street , Fried Chicken and Coffee, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Metazen, Poetica and she recently was selected for publication for the upcoming “Wasn’t That Special?” Anthology.