Shelly Norris

Shelly Norris ripened in the wild west on a farm in Wyoming. She hails from a long line of post-Civil War migrants, pioneers, scofflaws, and illegitimates; wherever there is a “bastard” break in the lineage, that’s her line of people. She currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. Please, don’t judge. Working in the shadows grading sub-par college essays, advocating any 12-point font other than Calibri, and editing for other writers, she has been slow to send forth her own writings into the cold world of rejection and possible publication. Her poems appear in Verse-Virtual, Uppagus, Spillwords, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Drabble, vox poetica, The Cabinet of Heed, and several theme anthologies by Sweety Cat Press, as well as The Owen Wister Review, Open Window Review, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers, and The Writer’s Club/Gray Thoughts.  She currently wrestles with several manuscripts trying to strongarm them into telling her what they want to be. More recently, she has begun to publish short fiction.

Get Well Soon

A poet believes trees
smell of stardust breathed in
through starlight, a lovely thought. 
Holy wisdom requires letting go
blame, regret, even desire. Maybe
desire most of all, a lovely prayer. 
The road to freedom asks us to measure
during this dark week between years
rarified particles of stardust trapped
in our worn sighs, accept this burden
of living rootbound to a landscape
where we scarcely thrive, admit
complicity in fictionalizing frictions
that saddle forbidden elation, own
our handiwork in braiding a timeline
that locks potentials into the dictionary
of dead definitions. 
Neither time nor reason, not thoughts
nor prayers can expire the isolation, 
the only known antidote to exposure
as a citizen of once able broken bodies.
Shrink your plans. 
Brave the worn warnings that nag
of daily infection rates and body counts
and shifting vulnerabilities. Thoughts
and prayers. Everyone’s from somewhere,
carries a hanky full of bitterness
that won’t expire. 
Release the woman lonely in her thin hours 
and sick hate. 
Before you depart, hand her the sun, that
brilliant flaming orange ball she expected
to be gifted long ago. A gesture
to secure some peace as we scale
the next rung on a ladder 
built from aromatic oak
that smells of luminous ancient light.  


Peppermint sprouts first 
though audacious runners 
wintered green wafting exotic
promises of Mojitos, Cuba 
Libres, jelly for leg of lamb.
I fantasize ways to rid 
its invasive stranglehold. 

The FedEx guy pulls up short 
at the edge of the driveway, 
hops out sporting cargo shorts 
on a chilly day, pockets bulging 
with dog treats. Bearing 
imperfect organic produce, 
he doesn’t ring even once. 

I deliberately leave the tree shoot 
arching over the cucumber patch
as one brazen cuke vine twirls 
around its trunk bowing it to her
will, making it her trellis 
to support the weight of 
burgeoning fruits. Let her have it. 

Bean vines encircle my ankles,
cinch and burn toward the bone
green brands melt into thinning flesh,
trip me to damp ground, prick and
cocoon me in bristled strands. 
Drawn to my dry heat
ticks and chiggers mount to feed. 

In a hot bath I drown them free. 

The Last Time

The last time 
I spoke to my father alive I told him 
don’t worry about Christmas
cookies and fudge; I’ll take care of it. 

At least a decade before I’d begun
to regift the plastic containers of crumbles
and sugary overcooked Penuchi 
that traced us around the country to my sons. 

In his last cognizant exchange with anyone
he said well, if nothing else . . . 
and mumbled an incoherent  instruction 
or request or deluded observation.

For all I will never know
it may have been his funniest joke ever. 
Though not an apology; he never breathed 
words that could be mistaken for I’m sorry. 

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