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.
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
colorful, stinky banners hanging
room through room
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.
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,
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,
hands cooking dinner for seven when the
pounding and the sky purpled. Tough cookie
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,
the dusk. They took off their heads, she
sat beneath her dining table. Her cloudy
eyes shooed them away, trembled when
near her wooden knees. She cursed at them,
momma, made them know she wasn’t ready yet
With time, others waited outside windows, came
softly in the brazen light of day, stood by her
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
would take the monster?