Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet and writer. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Boston Literary Magazine, Connecticut River Review, Impspired, Muddy River Poetry Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Teaching and a BA in Political Science. She is focusing on her writing and taking a break from teaching high school history to students who nicknamed her Momma Kirbs and kept her current on young folk lingo.
Compass from the Ruins
I wonder if your dad hadn’t died whether we would have met. Or if he’d done it a different way. Something less son-wrecking than with rope, waiting for you to find him among old boxes and garage tools. If your heart had been just a little less shredded, the pictures in your head a bit less acidic. If we would have happened. Or if I’d stayed home, and that chilly Spring night hadn’t become notable. Instead, jamming to CDs or gossiping with girlfriends. Not a night that left me gutted and afraid of men. Watchful for underground monsters below a dormant-moon-drawn sky. Or if I hadn’t stayed in town for school because yet another surgery destroyed yet another plan. With my Boston fresh start smithereen-dropped on a Friday afternoon. Through the pizza serving years and cocktail waitress midnight star-scatters. Drunk-hollers and thigh pinches. Closing off my senses. Piecing together rent and medical bills amid touchdown ruckus. Would we have somehow still met? If you hadn’t gotten laid off from work you took after your crushing. Post your no haircut, living aimless phase, resigned to don’t-give-a-fucks. And you hadn’t moved South to a place of more sun and no memories. If you hadn’t been assigned a cubicle next to my friend. And she hadn’t called me to tell me she worked with an awesome not-a-desk-job-type guy, who didn’t like coffee and told jokes during no-joke meetings. Or if you hadn’t listened when she told you to call me. And I hadn’t answered my phone one icy Winter evening that would lift us into the next seventeen years.
Only time you prayed. Some profanity juxtaposed next to Jesus. Coz those were nights “shit” could be said in front of kids. And pool hall attitude could lounge in the living room. Fight nights hiding your gentle. Half off your chair leaning you’ll-hurt-your-eyes close to the TV. Still smelling of backyard cigar, lit brick patio, watching stars break through the sky. Peanut-shells-drop-carpet times. White hair wrapping your neck, annoyed your own cough cut off the announcers. Brooklyn boy cracks shaking out the years. Knockout-watch nights. Left hooks and jabs grabbing hold of your guts and that usually settled tongue sprung free. Those “Everybody-shut-the-hell-up” hours. Bells ringing and you standing yelling through the countdowns. How you let me sit on the floor next to you. Coz during our no-nonsense chess matches and morning walks, you’d given me the heads up about which “sons-uh-bitches” had it coming that night. Only granddaughters could sit close.
To Hell with My Brave
I was born backed into a corner. Knocking jaws. Spit-cussing beats. Eye-cast meet-cute with my retreat. Violating nature’s law. Strut-humming streets. Who am I but the oopsy-daisy fruition-come of God's lazy-day faux pas. Jigsaw-pieced woman fleecing time. Blowing kisses to hits. Rug-swept ashes-to-dust, begging please-you-must-forgive in a hushed evening cry. Committing the crime of fighting to live. Scar-dressed, acquiesced to the tear-smeared appall that reaches rawest gut depth. Each step a new cusp. Cooking dinner while rustling up this fomented side-hustle of my borrowed life’s strained breath. Battered and bloodied. Muddied and swollen. Sick of the sick in each day that I’ve stolen. And nights of this fight, staving off the depraved. When’s it enough? To show I’ve atoned. And for what? For not dying? It's trying. I’m tired. This sin that I own. Done with this grip. This unending almost-tripped grave. To hell with my brave. Just leave me alone.