Two Poems by Thelma T. Reyna


Poet and fiction writer Thelma T. Reyna’s new chapbook Breath & Bone is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in April. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy; get yours from their New Releases page. (Books are listed alphabetically by author.) She kindly shares two poems from this collection below.

A childhood home marked by mental illness can sometimes be the crucible in which a writer is formed. Perhaps the need to make sense of the impossible hones one’s mental powers to find or invent extraordinary conceptual connections. There’s a fine line between the extreme coping strategy we call madness and the one we call art. That line, I think, is made of self-awareness and self-integration.

****

Quilts

Mother plugged up the coffee spout
  
with foil after dinner
to keep the cockroaches out
  and laid a pile
of patchwork quilts on the chilly floor
  
for us to sleep on and urinate.
She hung them on the doors
  
next morning,
colorful, stinky banners hanging
  
room through room
to dry—rearranging
  
them next night so the most pissed
would be on the bottom of the stack
  
and we could sleep without the stench
of too much wetness.

Her black
  
coffee sometimes had a baby cockroach
drowned in its bitters. Got through the foil, I guess,
  
damned little fool,
got through the plug to mess
  
her brew, as we messed her quilts—
growing kids lying shoulder to shoulder
  
on the floor,
growing older,
  
still peeing, still wrapped in each other’s arms
to keep warm.

****

How She Died

Who knew it would be like this?
Strong woman, monster lady, mover of monoliths,
she liked to say, not mountains, but monoliths.
Tough momma since thirteen: monster lady, she
called herself, woman who built our house,
   leather
hands cooking dinner for seven when the
   hammer stopped
pounding and the sky purpled. Tough cookie
   without
a man, welts hidden, legs scarred.

But in the end she moved molehills. Her brain
dumped her, one side crumpling, wetting, when
   the going got
too tough too long, the other side pumping her
   to be strong.
The wet one won.

With time, her visitors, airy visitors, came
in pairs, night or day, perched in corners,
   smirking in
the dusk. They took off their heads, she
   said, and
sat beneath her dining table. Her cloudy
eyes shooed them away, trembled when
   they moved
near her wooden knees. She cursed at them,
   tough
momma, made them know she wasn’t ready yet
   for death.

With time, others waited outside windows, came
softly in the brazen light of day, stood by her
   sheets, floated
by her stone hands from a far-off time beyond
recall. These she’d truly loved. Her brain burst one
day in a wetness of recognition. Who could’ve
known she’d die this way? Who could’ve
   guessed love
would take the monster?

11 comments on “Two Poems by Thelma T. Reyna

  1. Hank Rodgers says:

    – THE FAMILIARS –
    (Just before Munch’s ‘The Scream’)

    They stare – just outside our,

    Tight-closed, window;

    We think, we think we know

    Them; still we wonder

    At the fact that they are all

    So strange, familiar.

    What are

    They trying,

    So hard,

    To say?

    © Hank Rodgers
    January, 2011

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