Yes, I did — at a bridal shower in hill-country,
I made a joke about a mosquito proposing.
How could I not? That bite exactly centered
on my ring finger, raised like a solitaire gem
and shiny with reaction. I wanted connection
and in a house of strangers, tried to be funny.
But who had time for more than half-hearted
smiles? One bridesmaid 39 weeks pregnant,
another married and drinking heavily, bride
fighting with her mother about lingerie, me
too self-conscious to swim the undercurrents
of so many strangers and the ripples of living.
Exploring You & Me
The very bedrock of you etched with don’t cross here,
unmeasurable gorges, summit-less mountains,
all I know of you are borders. I’ve been map-making
the wheres and hows of not this way,
created a scale of miles to attempts failed. Legend
me something. I’m not asking for a road,
only the gentler angle, less strewn with rocks, placid
and fed wildlife. Show me one thing good
or good enough exists in your landscape so I can
remember up ahead might have what I’m looking for.
I Have Sacrificed Years to Questioning
I dressed them all in natural fibers, unbleached
and shapeless, gave them a diet of clover honey
and milk, let their hair grow however it would.
I kept them isolate, to maintain purity of skin
from the sun. I taught them quiet games, small
ways dice might roll in their favor. The windows
were small too, necessarily brief flashes of sky
so none of the years developed a phobia, either
of enclosed spaces or all-encompassing horizon.
They grew, my years, and I built an altar for them,
one of sweet-smelling oils, morning dew, birdsong.
I pressed the grass flat, arranged stones. Wept.
I lead my years to the place of sacrifice. Laid them
down, anointed their brows, their calloused feet.
Whispered last words, a hand cupped to their ears.
Then, I slashed! Cut our every tie. And let them go.
Shelly Holder has had poetry accepted by Gyroscope Review in both print and audio format, as well as a video recording on the Palm Beach Poetry Festival’s YouTube page. She has also had flash fiction published in Camden Press and DOGZPLOT. She lives somewhere she likes to call an “outer-outer-outer suburb of Los Angeles”, where she struggles to get an orange tree to fruit.