Old Paint Colors

Before he died, we shared a common history.
The slow unfurling of breath, a womb, two
hands, a tapestry of goodbyes in sepia. A
placenta, grey, buried under the pine-straw

of winter. So many sad things planted. At first,
they were green. Pain, is a garden we are all born
into. We live in the house with the terracotta roof.
You grow like a sycamore in a world that wants to

reduce the density. Little girl, sweet girl, I am afraid
of the red in you. Your trumpeting mouth, that open-
windowed wound that grew from the blue in me.
We stand close, but do not touch, a cloud like coolness.

I hang my heart in the hallway closet. You leave your coat
on the floor. When father is lost to the great emptiness
of summer, the air streaming with jasmine is fat in its
silence. You take down all the framed family photos

but leave the cork board in the sitting room. I find myself
drawn to its two-tone center, an artifact of grief & release.
I want to mourn together. You leave me without words,
searching for color. The ash of day, my last remaining refuge.

On The Second Anniversary of Your Death

The trauma repeats
There will be words spoken
into the void. Mouths
laden with ritual.
How you are missed. How they cannot
get your scent off the furniture.
I consider the redundancy of betrayal.

The hard truth owned. I taught our girls to love
the emptiness of winter. Not the birds,
Not the sun. Not the heart beating
inside my chest. Not me.
I do not forgive you for dying.
I do not forgive myself.
I have been rejected by everyone
I have ever shared blood with.

The risk of being non-essential, sometimes
I want the world to burn.
God is sitting on the sidelines cheering for
a flood. I have never had a single moment
where I did not hear voices, or believe
that death is the solution
for shame. Like rocks in an avalanche,
I have a powerful desire to dissolve.

That One Moment Where Life…

Never minded my body much at twelve/breasts/
just enough/Not big/Not flat. I wore the same tee

Mom bought two summers past in Newport/Hang
Ten. I can still picture those gold stitched feet,

unraveling in the wash like life & its unreliable
comfort. There’s that moment when you can

see from what’s coming from every angle. I kennel
my fear behind a smile that has to be trained.

First, the boys. staring, a little too hard below the
neck. Then the girls, with their breath on your back.

Under a dark fuck-you sky, “Sheree is a Bitch”
scrawled on the sidewalk in Sharpie. I throw up,

my middle finger. Anger becomes the new starting
point. Bras, the post war housing. I stare down a

woman summing up my boobs. She is wrangling a
cloth tape like something to be conquered. “You

have nice separation,” she says. I bury my shame
in a cardboard box. Like a bullet stuck in the
chamber, my childhood caught & caged.

Poem in Which My Heart Disappears

My youngest, a daughter, takes a gap before
college, Yale. Her father hands me an empty
box. The message is clear, a day after
her 18th birthday he’s reclaiming a blessing,
left behind. How does a man
lost for a decade find his way home?
Beware of outstretched arms, sweeping
in like wind-driven rain.
Do not toast hellos, goodbyes
the fast retreating landscapes. I have seen
steel blades sheathed in blue eyes.
Father is good at slicing up roots.
Like the slap of a screen door at dusk,
grief, still warm to the touch leaves
me weeping into the shadows.

Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Penn Review, American Journal of Poetry, Redivider, Women’s Studies Quarterly, SRPR, The Rumpus, Plainsongs, and I-70 Review, among others. Her poetry was recently nominated for Best of The Net and two Pushcarts. Her micro-chapbook, ‘The Politics of Love,’ was published in August by Ghost City Press. She has a new chapbook, ‘Broken: Do Not Use,’ due out with Main Street Rag Publishing. She received an MFA in Writing from the California Institute of the Arts and taught poetry to former gang members.