Painting Party at an Indian Buffet
I am scumbling a cataract waterfall with underhanded oils,
ad-libbing the lilac current and dysmorphic October Glory maple trees.
Feeling prolific and pioneering, I fashion a festooned mermaid
headlining shamrock curls, gaudy beneath the lioness sun
atop an out-of-tune libertine boulder garden.
The pedestrian instructor clears her throat stormily,
downturned eyes resentful as solar streetlamps
behind her rimless blonde tortoise frames
as she earmarks my mutinous aesthetic.
My syndicated mother towed me to this loitering class
within a strip mall Indian dive, the peppercorn air pulsating
with bouquets of cardamom, mutton, unleavened flatbread.
The curry buffet winking with fairy lights is distended
with acerbic cuisine that begets my broken heart
to broil like a battery acid drip.
My mother’s painting is, of course, timidly idealistic,
her sentimental waterfall poignant with larkish layers
of pewter, aqua, salmon, smoke, isabelline, silver bullet, bone.
Her tailored flapper bob is a last-word showstopper,
Cupid’s bow lips nuanced as a silent starlet’s enigma.
Her latest bank’s silver manager extended the skittish invite
to what he broadcast as a “Paint and Sip Party with kebabs”
after Mom dropped by in a maroon leather pencil skirt
to dramatically deposit her fourth bona fide paycheck.
She keeps insisting (with no actual probing from me),
there is nothing amorous, schmaltzy, awkwardly sanguine,
or starry-eyed about his incidental entreaty.
Yet she took three-and-a-half hours to get dolled up,
discarding four-fifths of her smug diplomatic wardrobe
before culling the evergreen cable-knit sweater
Dad ponied up two Christmas Eves ago,
the most claustrophobic jeans in her swarming closet,
ultrasuede peep toe pumps and liquid eyeshadow,
counteracted by an Ethiopian emerald lavalier
vignetted against her unearthed collarbone,
Ferrari lips contradicting peaches-and-cream.
She must have pocketed a sunup manicure
because her embittered fingernails have been forged
into temporary silk periwinkle talons which clash
with her liberal yellow platinum coiffure.
I diagnose the sidekick savor of Chasing the Dragon Hypnotic,
sardined beside Mom at a reclusive folding crafts table
within the banquet room of two-month-old Curry Kingdom.
Diamond-studded notes of pink pepper and fir balsam mist her marrow.
She must have wielded that crystal flagon wholeheartedly,
perhaps petrified of the sensual amber aura deserting her
along with her second, fifth, and eighth cherry pie cachets.
The rest of my slapdash classmates are barely propelling
their neophyte paintbrushes, far more stimulated by the
skyscraping stoneware plates stockpiled with butter chicken,
lamb vindaloo, banana fritters, samosas in mint sauce.
None of these crackerjack women are wearing
high heels or passionate perfume or carnal lipstick.
They gossip grouchily, mouths full of chickpea batter,
wiping devil-may-care hands upon whisker-washed jeans.
The bank manager in a stock-tie brooch has been governing
the reverse end of the gossamer collapsible table all afternoon,
garishly coquetting a chirping twenty-year-old curvy Latina
clad in ripped overalls and a Candy Cane Tulip arm sleeve.
My mother’s animated indigo eyes never brush their way,
immersed in her invigorating canvas and bottomless blushes,
now commanding a flawless symmetry of violet and celeste
for vivifying an Indian summer evening sky ballet.
It was how you overhung the spirit quartz rain
above Old Woman’s Creek
that glibly thawed the syndromes
of my flickering convertible skin,
your fire-dancing into the furrows
of a heart gone breezeless.
Your upturned topaz scrutiny
detonated overdrawn overestimation,
the very counterfeit breath
when snow pellets dramatize ice crystals,
vampiric diamond dust needles
gnawing Sandusky supermoons.
With all the wiles of a Banded Tulip
spitting on tabbed sweethearts,
I candidly dog-eared the angular temper
of your truant longboard,
the impolite symmetry of mute swans
pluming such well-tailored contour.
Third Eye Sagas
The specters are starting to take over my reach-in closet,
already sardined with rusting halter tops, skittish stilettos.
These revenants exhale ashes of boat orchid funeral wreaths,
unbarred eyes hemic with beachheads and canyonsides.
The tinseled revivalist enslaved in a Bordeaux robe
dripping coquille feather sleeves arises every skyblush,
supplicating in Carpathian Romani at the cashew footboard,
offering up alms and psalms to any bleeding-heart angel,
a capsized Mary Magdalene exorcizing trumped-up demons.
Her crib-noting pepper shaker grandiose daughter
acute with Skylark foo foo, asymmetrical draped hip,
nourished by chiselers, alligator jazz, and torpedo juice,
robot-bombed this Fox Fields wedding cake-contoured
Second Empire baroque with cut stone, balustrades, and
Flagstone clapboard trim, gung-ho for a Governor’s Palace
genuine fake manor on the hill, funded by her egg-beating
crab patch mother’s pennies from heaven.
I don’t have the heart to clarify hell-bent hydraulics
of astringent offspring to this forsaken lost sheep
primping dime store Art Deco hinged half hoops,
Bakelite bone, synthetic rock crystal asymmetry.
She warbles, an aweless wren, about her coterie of
polished Lucite poodles, penguins, toucans, leopards, bulls.
Neither can I summon the mettle to unfold to her
the quick-freezing fact that her peripheral overtures
are grasped only by a lonelily woman tardy on rent,
dreaming of circling sharks and headless folklore.
She implores me to recoup the gold architecture dangles
she was set in quartz stone about being laid to rest in,
rabidly insisting that her spitting cobra sister-in-law,
a mugbug Minnie Moocher who kicked the gong around,
navigating her wolfish wares from the brother’s secretary desk
to his Louis XVI giltwood bed, hijacked the heirship earrings
before dramatizing her meteoric plunderage earned from
the groom’s quick-tempered influenza mere weeks after
bartering his thriving uptown shoes sovereignty
for a thunderstruck sum.
The untarnished widow donned Gatsby ballroom crystal drops
at the cliff-hanging wake, the dead brother’s loved ones
retreating in revulsion after paying final respects.
This roundheel sister-in-law never wanes from
the beggar banshee’s tantrums for a peerless moment,
trapping her own figmental essence in slow-burn brimstone.
Her inexistence is panoramic.
A primitive, petulant lad in muddy pantaloons
boomerangs his lemon peel baseball up and down
the bronze-baked staircase on the declining occasions
our dethawing family receives visitors (mostly clammy priests),
his decomposing giggle waxing macabre hysterics
as our ruffled callers furnish their unmilled excuses,
making pyretic escapes.
My stepson has glimpsed this sunless kid pacing hallways,
swears to the very Lord that the insensible child’s face
has depicted a vulture, a rat snake, a gurgling skull.
The unfinished war widow in the bias-cut gown with
a slashed backline, Red Cross Coquette air step heels,
black olive hair mantled in pin-up top victory rolls,
is by far the most unsaved and unforgiving of them all.
She crouches by the floral fireplace in the Surrealist den,
toiling to warm a gossamer pair of pipe dream hands.
I’ve withstood her frenzied dogma in the freshly-fussy
Amish-toned guestroom where she was reputedly throttled
on the parquetry parlor by her big-wheel lover,
an impeachable senator’s son who never stood trial,
was wed within the year to the primrose niece
of the local Lutheran youth pastor.
The unseeing widow still huddles in vain
for her sweetie to return bearing yellow lilies,
cordial apologies, profound excuses,
the promise of poignance and children.
She doesn’t miss her first husband, then or now,
a corporal who shattered on a gaping beach.
This piteous waif carved an unflinching eye
into the built-in butler pantry door,
frantic to imprint her shadowless survival.
hammers at the French barn door
like homicidal harbinger banshees,
or werewolves whittled from Baily’s Beads
Platinum pixies pamper the stargaze hothouse
birthing bullheaded bouquets of floss flowers,
quicksilver pomp trailing Lusty Gallant
and drunk-tank pink, the tender articulation
in a flame-of-burnt-brandy butterfly kiss
Often, I will summon scapegrace zigzag Jobyna:
unvarnished eventide of black-market milestones
ill-mannered flower moon nighthawk kiss-curls
wildcat moxie in labyrinthine lifeblood
hunting steeplechases in cerulean snowstorms
Monophonic, we watered waxen orchids
crooning gypsy jazz for understory tea fields
graphed camisado shortcuts throughout
pine-floored Greek Revival plantations
branded tin lizzie go-carts with dirt road donuts
lindy-hopped the cha-cha-cha
wielding origami legwork
cross-examined historic lavender hotels
hunting the revised ghost of Jesse James
divined japa mala jumble sales
from Americana roots-rock ash heaps
Between these discolored heartbeats
thrashing with tobacco shiraz and inanimate elegies,
you still lie in wait, a curtained gator
transporting twigs atop its pancaked skull,
luring in catbirds patchworking platform nests
Your koi pond essence lingers
like stolen apple perfume:
an atomic tootsie outlaw
in that rumpled peplum dress,
bumbling bungee cord sneaker boots,
catapulting rotting rogue ranches
into tectonic missing lakes
At Age Thirty-Seven
Thirty-seven years old and still no sign of
hotspot mountains. I am too repressed to pull off
leg kicks at weddings, even when my pushiest
nonbiological uncles plead. I am always stuck in
plum or periwinkle cupcake tulle, forever the
retrospect bridesmaid with the drunkest escort.
I am too obsolete to relearn high school Latin,
too dishonest to teach myself action origami.
I can no longer, in good conscience,
erode crochet underboob crop tops
scored from corporate hippie hawkers,
stockpile novelty unicorn keychains,
annex flapper dress fringe totes.
During which phase are you obliged to outlaw
your ham-fisted polychromatic braid flower,
commence donning formless soot-hued slacks and
those slashed-sleeve sheaths your aunt insists on
burdening you with at annual Christmas bashes?
I’ll hawk mermaid cat cookie jars at yard sales,
stop exploiting dollar-store warm sugar vanilla,
actually start exerting those junk mail credit cards
for Nordstrom, Coldwater Creek, J. Crew,
learn to tolerate the tang of blood oranges,
to exude poignant daisies sown for the childless.
My age-old niece will deify these Rainbow Brite stickers,
will lionize the musty menagerie of My Little Ponies
still vamping nylon cotton candy mohawks.
The unfinished attic cages the militant board games
left unstirred by battle since that uncombed morning
you last framed the jazz apple kitchen’s swing door,
just itching to confront the refrozen snowflakes
in your ghost-white soda ankle booties.
To my transient nephew,
I will transmit this scruffy Big Wheel
I used to patrol my pastel-painted precinct.
My mother may want Dad’s iron basset hounds back,
but probably not. She’d hide them in a garage capsule
instead of flaunting them in her teal farmhouse cabinet.
Or else she would donate them to the nearest congregation,
regardless of byzantine Biblical interpretation.
Once upon an enameled time,
there was a resealable girl who preserved
a class project terrarium for five and a half years.
She flickered up and down balance beams,
wrote English papers for swanky girls in baby tees,
spritzed unsent letters in Lisa Frank keepsake boxes,
allowed her faint-hearted kid sister to monopolize
her tea rose velveteen Minnie Mouse platform bed
on vertical, vagabond autumn nights.
That arroyo of a girl has carried that bed on her back
all her life: across undersea mountains, through
black-tailed deserts obscuring towering vertical clouds.
Megan Denese Mealor resides in Jacksonville, Florida. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her writing has been featured in literary magazines worldwide, most recently Penumbric, Bewildering Stories, and The South Shore Review. Megan has authored three poetry collections: “Bipolar Lexicon” (Unsolicited Press, 2018); “Blatherskite” (Clare Songbirds, 2019); and “A Mourning Dove’s Wishbone” (in the works). Megan is currently toying with architectural photography and volunteering for animal shelters. She and her husband, eight-year-old son, and three mollycoddled cats occupy a cavernous townhouse ornamented with vintage ads for Victorian inventions.