Why I Don’t Ride Bikes
My daughter zooms past on her brother’s bike
(I didn’t know she could ride without training wheels)
and her hair waves its long blonde fingers.
(She’s not wearing a helmet!)
I yell, “Stop! Stop!” She’s doesn’t stop. Perhaps she doesn’t hear.
(Let’s be real—she’s always ignored my pleas.)
She crosses the street and the blue pickup smacks her into flight.
(My son wails, “She said she’d only be a minute!”)
She soars 100 feet into the church stained-glass window.
I run to the church door. A crowd forms.
The old priest fumbles with his keys.
(Knock and the door will be answered.)
Once the door opens, we rush inside and there she is
(sitting on the floor in front of the altar)
with Father Damien kneeling at her side.
He says she’s fine. The EMT already checked her out.
(No ambulance is parked outside the shattered window.)
She’s fine, he says again. I cry, thank you, thank you.
My friend Trent bends over to pick up the keys
the old priest has dropped. He is dressed
like a priest—all in black with the collar.
(He is not a priest, but here, he is.)
I hug my daughter and my hand turns
red. The back of her head is covered in blood,
but she’s smiling. The priest hands me the chalice
(do this in memory of me).
Do This in Memory of Me
Drink the cheapest pinot noir from a toothpaste-crusted bathroom tumbler—don’t wash it out.
Leave unopened bills and credit card offers in a stack on the kitchen counter for months.
Eat Pizza Hut breadsticks, Papa John’s cheese sticks, and Godfather's pizza all at the same meal
and watch the entire Seinfeld series until you can quote from every episode.
Forget to call or text or email someone back for four months, but play their favorite songs
while you dance alone in the dark living room until, exhausted, you decide to write.
Write a poem for your friend’s birthday and send it in a card that is two weeks late.
Write poems on yellow legal pads—be sure there’s one pad in each room of the house.
Spend thousands on clothes that will never be worn—they lie in messy puddles on your floor.
Spend hours straightening your curly hair only to put it up in a bun when you leave the house.
Blast Leonard Cohen while racing down 42nd Street to the interstate.
Travel alone in a rented car to Boise to visit Alvin in a coffee shop. This time, you pay.
Because my hair was black as ink
Because my hair was black as ink,
it wrapped around faucets—
the plugged drains—the sinks and bathtub
backed up with snake-like strands.
The plumber urged me: “Shave your head!”
He plunged the kitchen sink.
While he knelt on the wet tile,
I mopped, twirled, and squeegeed.
I knotted my hair into a bun.
He took apart the faucet—
we floated beyond shock and disgust—
I laughed at his lame jokes.
But when Leven entered
naked—sharp razor in hand,
I ran—hid in the closet
behind dresses, suits, and long coats.
She found me—pierced my left lung
and dragged me by the arm
down the hall and stairs—chopped my hair—
a good luck charm to toss.
The mistake was hers—flushing it—
the toilet grew teeth—feet.
Black and mossy, caked with hunger,
pipes avenged my baldness.
As We Leave the Church Carnival
my mother asks Levee if she had fun.
She gestures to the yellow bounce house,
where my husband jumped and hurt his back,
to the Ferris wheel, where my son clung to my arm
as if one of us would throw him from the gondola
when it reached its full height, to the cotton candy
kiosk, where Levee launched into the cloud
and was left with pink stringy globs in her hair.
Levee won’t answer so my mother asks
if she’s okay. This is the wrong question.
Now Levee plants her feet in the grass—
I suggest to my mother that she keep walking.
My husband, son, and I know we must not
turn back. Continue on. My mother, who
rarely sees her granddaughter, assumes
we’re insensitive—leaving the five-year-old
alone in the middle of the field to sprout
roots and house birds in her unbrushed nest.
When I speak to my mother, she shakes her
head as if I don’t know Levee or anything—
she’ll go back and reason with the girl.
Good luck with that. In a voice she never used
with me when I was the little girl left
alone, my mother plays the doting grandmother,
Sweetie, do you want something?
Do you need something?
Levee, with her dark eyes, screeches,
“I don’t want anything from you!”
and the little girl inside—crying and
scratching her face—whimpers,
Cat Dixon is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and The Book of Levinson and Our End Has Brought the Spring (Finishing Line Press, 2017, 2015), and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet's Haven, 2019). Recent poems have appeared in LandLocked and Abyss & Apex. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.
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