Tilting on One Wing

Poems by Claire Scott

no way to un-see/un-feel/un-hear

a child plays quietly with
stuffed animals and teacups
patches of sun crisscross the rug
more tea for you Mr. Bear?
another piece of cake Miss Badger?
her father staggers in
pulling at his

old enough to walk home alone
a key around her neck
cookies on the table
books beside the plate
A Kiss for Little Bear
her uncle rings the bell
her hands shake as she

Nicolas who could ask anyone
picks her up for the prom
a cocksure grin, wilted carnations,
a half-empty bottle of gin
he drives the wrong way
stops in blue-black shadows
turns to her and

the end
Drowning In Plain Sight

my mother steeped in vodka & vicodin
sticky strands of unwashed hair
nightgowns fastened with safety pins
us kids worked around her maudlin

moods, her in-bed-shades-down-days
toasting our bagels, braiding each other’s hair
no idea she lived at the bottom of the sea
seaweed memories twisting her mind

the stony voice of her brother
as he zipped his jeans        don’t tell
the fist of her father, welts swelling
under wool sweaters        don’t tell

so I turned to you
my to-bed-by-ten-up-at-six Father
who left each morning at eight
wearing a serious suit & a fedora
with a somber grosgrain bow

now each morning I swim
toward the sunlit surface
wrapped in your rules
carrying lists & schedules to
show me the way

yet I hear her curdled cries
I hear the harsh voices in her head
spiny-headed sea snakes
poised to strike
                you pathetic piece of shit
I am pulled under by a riptide of remorse
pulled under by vodka bottles in the back of my closet        don’t tell
vicodin stashed in tins of aspirin        don’t tell
I hear the voices, my mother’s voices, now mingled with mine
                you deserve to die

father your rules are
I smell of the sea
you will never know
how many times
I have wanted
to drown
Hot Line

I look at the phone surprised
to see what is clearly
a long long distance call
luckily it is almost ten
my shift almost done
& OMG will I be happy to
pick up my paycheck & get
the hell out of this hellhole
home to a cold Coors or two
or more for that matter
who the fuck cares
but I answer anyway, curious
his voice gravely
hazed with grit or guilt or gin
I’ve heard it all
no point he said
I can’t go on he said
I yawn
file my fingernails
check my list & ask if
his spirits are low
(I could use a few spirits right now)
he pauses & I play another
round of Pac-Man on my phone
I check my list
are you eating less, losing weight
I try again
have you lost interest in friends, family, favorite vegetables
he clears his throat
the connection fills with static
I will send floods to wipe out the world
no arks for rent
no animals two by two
no doves bringing scraggly branches

one synapse from suicide
hail Mary full of grace
one synapse from madness
make me a miracle
I see a last wisp of faith
waft skyward
ten o’clock
I hang up
Stage Four

I am falling through space
looking for the ledge
of my mother 

star-sick in every cell
cauterized hopes

expired dreams
a future with no

gauzy nights of

murky days of
                spinal taps
waiting for a mother
to make it better

with a kiss and a cup of
chamomile tea

but only commodes, call buttons
IVs tick-tocking
time’s flow

I spiral and spin
past moons


drifting past
a mother

made of planet
dust & despair

unseen I slide by
unheard I descend

drawn down by the pull of a dying star
So Many Chances

So many chances/O lord &

still here I am here         on your earth
stuck on your/pitiless earth

so many times/O lord
have mercy

I stumbled          down your streets
stoned on ecstasy/speedballs/crystal meth

so many times

I loaded a gun/held it to my head
with shaking hands

stared from a dark bridge at night/longing
felt your hand   on my shoulder

why O/lord
what do I matter to you

simply one soul               subtracted from time

one stammered soul
lost to you/ long ago

O lord/ listen/
give me one more chance

let me gather sticks for one/I promise/
last pyre

lit with the fire of/ hopeless salvation
the smell of burning sage

black notes crack
strained hallelujahs

prayers flap in
your awe-ful wind

the world is a short place/O lord
have mercy

world/without pity
O Lord
have pity


I am afraid of him his tangled walk
his bent body his face pinched in pain

since a car turned left sunblind
to the man in the crosswalk

I am afraid of doctors’ visits
orange vials of OxyContin

Vicodin Valium
CT scans MRIs showing

pelvis torqued spine twisted
I vowed to comfort my child

with teaspoons of NyQuil
baby aspirin ear drops

Vicks vapor rub smoothed
on his small chest

my fear keeps us apart
sparing me his stuttering cane
his pleading eyes

O Lord please show me

how to sit with my son
heart sore heart weary
let the silt of fear
settle in silence

Claire-2Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the  Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enzagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.