My Father’s Mother
for Sandra Drake
We played chess when she was dying
in the living room of my aunt’s trailer.
It must have been lung cancer;
she wore the first cannula I’d ever seen
and smoked too near the oxygen tank.
I knew nothing about chess, or dying—
at six, each turn she taught me was an eternity.
I wondered how the game could be fair
when she knew every trick I was learning.
In the front yard, my horse was penned, cantering,
no body on her back. I wanted nothing more
than to ride her, bareback like my father taught me,
to leave the game behind. I wanted no knights,
only my palomino. There was no time
for riding that day.
I see the horse’s mane in my memories,
my last day with either of them—
I see the horse clearer than I see
my grandmother: her hair, dyed brown like mine,
her glasses, the eyes behind them.
Ode to My Father
The way that spit gathers in the corners of your mouth—
that is how you taught me to love:
with gaps, bits of substance
as insubstantial as sputum,
the sign of a need for water
or a good cleaning.
Father, you have set the bar impressively low.
I spent ten years looking for a man like you—
I slept next to them naked, two dozen men
made their way into my bed
before I realized each one of them was you,
your hard eyes,
your dark hair,
your crooked bastard smile.
I learned how to leave them, father,
and you, in my wake.
Scarlett Peterson is a Georgia native who received her B.A. in English and professional writing from Kennesaw State University. Sher received her M.F.A. in poetry at Georgia College. She is currently working on her PhD at Georgia State. She is editor in chief of Exhume Literary Magazine, and was formerly an assistant editor of poetry for Arts and Letters. Her poetry has appeared or is upcoming in Five2One, Serendipity, Pennsylvania English, Ink and Nebula, FRiGG, 8-West Press, The Magnolia Review, Moon City Review, Fire Poetry, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Gargoyle Magazine. Her nonfiction has appeared in Pamoja, Madcap Review, and Counterclock Journal.
Artwork by: Lucas Pezeta