Palimpsest

Poems by Claire Scott

Communion at The Church of the Good Shepherd circa 1952

I drank the blood of Christ every Sunday
wearing my church hat with its too-tight strap
my Mary Jane’s spit-shined with Kiwi
a pink chiffon dress that came past my knees &
chafed my chest as I knelt next to my sisters
drinking just a sip only a sip as the chalice was passed
eyes shining splendor
the blood of Christ that was shed for you
 
I still do I still do only now an entire bottle
and not just on Sundays
no sacrament, no scriptures
I buy it at Walmart’s, a six buck Malbec
recommended by James Beard, god of good wine
probably not transubstantiated, but tastes terrific
warmth spreading through my sered bones
sometimes I murmur a prayer before I sip
for old time’s sake
forgive my sins that are
written across my forehead
scratched on my soul
then I pour another glass
for the child who grew up too fast
a priest’s hands on her breasts

 

The Voice of an Ninety-Six Year Old Woman at Mercy Care Center in Oakland, California

recorded July 15, 2017

O Lord
I cannot food
E. coli broccoli
on my tray
chicken laced
with cyanide
put a dollar under it
for Emily’s lost tooth
please
I think it was a boy
Annie’s baby
born backward
my silver hair-
brush-away-sorrow
stolen by Betty-Ann
disguised as a d
octor help
scribbling lies
on large pads
snickering as
my children are
chased away
by white uniforms
with huge heads
strange shoes
under my bed
eye blink twice
a man in my c
loset lusting
thrusting
I tiptoe be
hind O Lord
I do
slip-step-ping
slide-step-ping
in shackled slip
pers
carrying a tuna c
asserole
for my mother
mercy
curled up
in the cor(o)ner
please
help
O

He Left

He left last winter one chilled morning
in March his heart simply stopped
and he left.
Before I could coax him to stay
a bit longer, until he fixed the computer,
the seatbelt, the toaster, the shade
that never goes all the way down.
Until he kissed me.
But he left.
Only a ghost-towned face lying on the pillow.
Only the sound of a siren at 10:06. Only a priest, a coffin,
faces floating and fading. So terribly sorry.
Only a bottle of vodka at the kitchen table.
Because he left.
No one to tell the neighbor peed out his window
the cleaner’s shorted my change a man leered
and called me cunt.  No one to laugh
at my corny jokes (a wallaby walked into a bar)
to tell me my skirt’s on backward my socks
don’t match. No one to put exactly two teaspoons
of sugar in my coffee. I drift through rooms.
Cold always so cold.
Since. He. Left.
I touch his flannel robe, smell his shirt,
musty from his last run. Listen to his voice
on our machine. Please leave a message.
I look at photos of us in Spain, Singapore, Nepal.
None of it is him. He. Left. I watch plants wither
dust gather on my desk food grow white fuzz.
I turn up the heat.
He did leave me one thing in the runes of March.
A hole in time that I can slip through.
And be warm.

On The Way Home

Columns and rows
lined up to perfection
on this bleak Monday morning
seven more hours to soldier through
at Schneider, Watkins & Brown
I drift from the spreadsheet
to Sunday afternoon
tangled tongues, feral teeth
fingers stroking ecstasy
soaring beyond Sirius
secure in his arms.

The orb of light covers only a few feet
I cross through silent shadows
to my weather-beaten Toyota
purse poised to swing
keys in hand like a knife
every scuffle startles
every cough unsettles
I slip inside, lock the doors
turn the key
numbers from my spreadsheet
float before me, the blessèd
tedium of numbers
each secure in its own cell.

Desire drained, swallowed back
not safe to want out here in the dark.
not safe to feel the lure of lust
in the shadows, in the parking lot.

My husband says I am not there
when I come home.

 

Claire-2Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.