Jazz Man

I was six, palms
pressed against the window
of our green Chrysler,
passenger door held
shut with twine.
We were waiting
for the Seattle ferry
in a line two ferries long.

All along Alaskan Way,
cars wedged together
like crowded teeth,
exhaust fumes ebbing
and flowing.
Music pulsed in waves;
a driver tapped
his steering wheel,
sun off his side
mirrors blinding.

My father’s anger
lifted like heat
from the concrete.
At the curb, an old black
man sat on the pavement
with his plastic bags
listening to a Cuban grifter
play a blues guitar.

The sun beat down.
Something indecent
uncoiled beneath the front
seat as my father
reached down for his bb gun,
braced it, and cocked
the hammer.

I think I saw it coming.
There was a sudden
gravitational collapse,
my past and future
converging, like the ends
of a folded sheet.

I turned twenty in an instant,
in love with a jazz man
so dark he shone.
He sang Billie Holiday
while I spun

drunk as a tin top, skirt
fanned out in feathers.
At the end of Strange Fruit
he said he’d walk
off that stage
and make me his,

he had the kind of magic
that could reach back
and find me in 1972,
still in the ferry line
when my father fired.

I heard the sound of the bb
go by in such a concentration
of speed, that when it hit
the old man, I touched
my lover ten years away.

It was 1985 before I left
my father’s house;
I’d eaten every forbidden
fruit to forsake him.

My mother stayed,
until she couldn’t sleep
with the ghost beneath
the bed—it coiled,
tight as the spring
in a firing chamber.


The Opposite of Waves

My mother
drove her car into a ditch,
sat beneath the stars,
and let the dome light
burn out.

she held a knife over
her bathroom sink,
cutting her hands
until blood welled
black and quiet.

She said
I know what crazy is:
it’s the opposite
of words like starling
and mist and waves,

it’s a homemade haircut
to the scalp,
it’s fourteen pills a day.

It’s wishing it was you
bleeding black and quiet
beneath the dome light
and stars.


Kristin collects all things Victorian, and dreams of inhabiting Wharton’s New York., although she is currently living in “the sticks”. She reads Westerns for flavor, and is a dog person having a love affair with a strange, picky cat. She’s also having a love affair with an “outside” man because he smells deliciously of pine needles. She’s the author of Girls with Gardenias, (Flutter Press 2012) and Downriver (Aldrich Press 2015). Her work has appeared in over sixty journals and anthologies, including Switched on Gutenberg, The Journal of the American Medical Association, VoiceCatcher, and Crab Creek Review. She is a retired attorney.