I grew up in New England but now teach literature and creative writing at a South Florida university. I play the piano and acoustic guitar and plan conferences for mystery writers. My poetry has appeared in print and online publications, including Sandy River Review, Shot Glass Journal, and Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.
Cat Sitting for my Ex-
Straight blades of the ceiling fan
Define a lazy circle.
The cat sleeps on the screened back porch.
Afternoon light streams through bamboo shades,
Crisscrossing the cat with shadows.
I stretch on a lounger and read, content.
This is not my house,
Houses in Key West,
He said after he bought it without me,
Perch on stilts
Above the flood in rainy season
And above the dust of drought.
Watch out, he said.
Beneath the house
Posing as beams and supports,
Hiding in a pants cuff
Or riding a sandal,
Ready to stab insidious poison
Into a naked heel.
The true scorpion hides on a bookshelf
In an unlabeled volume
I dare to open;
A faithful record of his days,
Ones I didn’t share with him,
And ones I did.
Innocent pages expose me
And all my failings to light:
Not working to save us,
Barging into everything
Committing to nothing;
Arriving too late,
Or not at all.
I cringe at this image of myself,
A preening peacock,
Tapping to pry him open,
While he pretends,
To hold my truth in an open container.
The air is hushed, until a light breeze
Brushes over nodding palm fronds,
Ready to explode.
WHAT did you want?
what DID you want?
what did YOU want?
what did you WANT?
Why am I here?
For a vague hope of feline contentment
In late afternoon light?
To sleep again in his bed,
Surrounded by his scent,
Arms around our memories?
The scorpion’s caustic toxin
Shoots ice into my heart.
I follow the cat’s stare upward;
A brown splotch of a cockroach startles against pastel paint.
It searches high along the wall next to the ceiling.
I watch with growing horror.
It disappears among the books on a top shelf,
Only to re-emerge from the binding
Of a guide we had bought for our trip to Barcelona.
The creature makes slow progress across the ceiling,
Landing on the pillow
Traveling across his bed.
I cannot watch.
To find a broom
A shoe or
To end its relentless journey.
When I return with a folded newspaper,
The brown blotch has disappeared.
Good news or bad?
I sit on the bed to brush my hair
While the brown blotch returns,
Its trip resumed along the floor.
It takes one tentative step
Onto the edge of my sandal.
When I lift the other as a murder weapon
The bug traces a quick line,
Fishtailing under the bed,
Lost among a stack of plastic tubs
Storing extra linens.
Terror shakes me.
I sit trembling atop the bedspread,
Staring at the fact of why we failed.
I never knew you.
©2016 Christine Jackson
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