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June 19, 2015 Poetry

Six Poems

Elizabeth Ellen

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Wolfie

 

The only time I ever bought weed on a regular basis was what would have been my sophomore year in college.
I was on academic probation (i.e. not going to school), living in a large house with seven other people (plus my boyfriend and my roommate’s boyfriend).
I took the bus three hours to my hometown once a month to buy weed from my mom’s ex-husband, Steve, who everyone, including my mom, called ‘Wolfie.’
(I called him Steve.)
They’d been divorced eight or nine years by then and I still sent him a Father’s Day card every year along with my mom’s other ex-husband, Stan, and my Uncle John and my grandfather.
(Having grown up without my biological father I was confused about what made someone a dad or parental figure in my life.)
I don’t remember buying my biological father a Father’s Day card.
It’s hard to remember much about my biological father since he and my mom split up after the honeymoon.
Once I made pot brownies for everyone in the house but they weren’t very good or we didn’t get very high or something.
When I was an adolescent my mom would throw big parties at our house and make pot brownies and once I forgot and took a bite of one.
I spit it out on the kitchen floor and the dog ate it but I don’t remember the dog acting funny or anything.
I didn’t see Wolfie much after that year.
He moved in with a woman but he never had a child.
For a while he was living back with his parents, trying to detox from alcohol.
When I did see him after that he told me about having the DTs.
I kept sending him cards to various addresses.
I kept hearing hometown gossip about him getting better and then getting worse.
I took my daughter home after she was born so he could see her.
Then when she was eight he started calling me all the time.
(I think he got my number from his mom who I still saw with some frequency when I went ‘home.’)
At first I would answer when he called, but it was hard to understand him and I had a hard time getting off the phone.
I started letting his calls go to voicemail.
I’d wait a few days to listen to them.
They were always the same: drunken, mostly incoherent, ramblings, about him and my mom and me.
I didn’t know what to do about the calls.
And they just kept coming.
Once I even got a call from his mother, which I also let go to voicemail.
(I called my mother, hoping she would know what to do but she didn’t do anything either. She was remarried and living in Florida. She hadn’t seen Steve in a long time either.)
Finally the calls stopped and I felt relieved.
I dealt with not knowing what to do by not doing anything.
(I had only thought of Steve in terms of being a father figure for me; I hadn’t bothered to think of myself as a daughter for him or what that might mean or what my responsibility in that relationship might be.)
It was a year or so later that I got the newspaper clipping in the mail from his mom.
The clipping said he’d passed away from cancer but there’d been no mention of cancer before then.
I still didn’t know what to do. I sent his mom and dad a card and avoided them whenever I went home after that.
I called my mom and my call went to voicemail.
I left a rambling, mostly incoherent message.

 


Jimmy


My daughter asked if we could stop by her friends’ apartment on the way home.
She said she was buying weed from her friend’s boyfriend for the river trip she was taking the next day.
I told her I still had weed at home in my drawer if she wanted some but she said my weed was weak, even though she’d never – to my knowledge - smoked it. “Jimmy’s stuff is from the dispensary,” she said.
“No offense,” she said.
I wasn’t offended. I was interested to meet Jimmy. I’d heard a lot about him.
When we walked inside the apartment there were four people sitting in chairs around a hookah: my daughter’s two girlfriends, Jimmy and Jimmy’s friend, Shank.
One of my daughter’s friends asked if I wanted to see her bedroom and then both of my daughter’s friends were on their feet and I was following them upstairs and looking at their bedrooms.
There were posters of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
There were covers of The New Yorker.
“Why do you have New Yorker covers?” I asked my daughter’s friend.
“I found them,” my daughter’s friend said.
I hesitated, wanting to know more, but my daughter’s other friend had called me into her room. There was a giant blanket on her wall made up of photographs of her with everyone she had ever known. I wasn’t on it.
“Very nice,” I said, not letting on my disappointment. “I like it a lot,” I said.
We went back downstairs. I sat beside my daughter on the couch.
Shank tried to pass me a joint.
“No, thanks,” I said. “My daughter doesn’t want to smoke with me,” I said.
“I have the opposite problem,” Jimmy said.
“What do you mean?” my daughter said.
“I want my dad to smoke with me and he won’t.”
“I don’t really want to smoke with her,” I said.
I remembered smoking in a car with my mom and my boyfriend outside the bar where she worked when I was a senior in high school or a freshman in college.
It’d felt weird, like having sex with your brother or something.
Like it wasn’t supposed to happen. Except there wasn’t really any good feeling, either, just bad.
I remembered when I was eight and nine, sitting in the living room with my mom and my mom’s husband and their friends. Someone would always accidentally pass me a joint.
And everyone would laugh.
I felt similarly now.
Everyone was laughing.
And now I’d met Jimmy.

 

 

Wolfie II

 

I never thought to ask why they called Steve ‘Wolfie.’
I sent my mom a text to ask her.
After he died, she told me he’d been the love of her life.
I already knew that.
They were only married three or four years.
I was seven or eight when they married and we lived together in four different houses during that time.
One of the houses was ‘out in the country’ surrounded by Amish people.
There was an Amish school at the end of our road and an Amish store around the corner from that.
My mom sent me next door to buy eggs from our neighbors.
There were no children to play with because the Amish weren’t allowed to play with non-Amish children and there weren’t any other kind around.
My mom texted right back.
She said Steve had grown his hair and beard out ‘for bicentennial days’ and one of his friend’s moms said he looked like a wolfman and it stuck.

I remember the night I realized my mom was having an affair.
A good friend of Steve’s had moved in with us temporarily after his wife shot herself with his gun while he was at work.
“Big Ed.” Big Ed wore overalls and had an even longer beard than Steve.
He was tall and sturdy like a lumberjack.
I remember sitting on his lap (I never sat on Steve’s lap; Steve was only 5’5” or 5’6”.), how low his voice was.
One night while Steve was at work, tending bar, the dog woke me, whining at the bottom of the stairs. I crept down in my nightgown, stood outside the door where Big Ed slept.
(It was the same room we played darts in.)
I remember feeling conflicted.
I remember trying to decide if I should go back up and get the tape recorder my grandfather had gotten me for Christmas.
Part of me wanted Steve to know what a horrible person my mother was.
But I couldn’t do it; I knew my loyalty was to my mother.
I went back up to bed and the dog went with me.
I don’t remember if it was days or weeks or months later that Steve moved out of the house and my mother and I moved into an apartment in town.
I remember I missed Big Ed, too.
I started sending Steve Father’s Day cards soon after that.
I didn’t send one to Big Ed.

 

Clue

 

We were playing Clue because it had rained so much the day before that my daughter’s boyfriend’s softball game was cancelled.
Two of the guys from the team were playing with us.
They’d come over for pizza and beer before the game.
I was on a thirty day alcohol cleanse; I was Shaggy (it was the Scooby-Doo version of Clue).
“’Thirty day alcohol cleanse’ makes it sound like you’re cleansing yourself with alcohol,” my daughter said. My daughter was Velma.
It was day seven and I wasn’t drinking.
“Can I open a bottle of wine,” my daughter said. My daughter was very responsible.
“Sure,” I said. My daughter only ever had one glass, at least when I was around.
We took a break from the game so she could open the bottle.
I had to go to the bathroom; on my way back through the bedroom I stopped to check my email.
It had been a week since I’d heard from the host of a reading series at which I was supposed to be reading later in the summer. I’d sent her two emails to reconfirm before buying a plane ticket.
I didn’t like flying by myself but I had agreed to because she had been so complimentary. “Fast Machine was one of my favorite books I read last year,” she had said.
She had signed her emails with x’s and o’s. She had used a lot of exclamation points. (That had been a couple months ago.)
Recently she had stopped replying to my emails.
I noticed one day her website had a listing for the reading and the next day it didn’t.
I knew what was coming then. It was only a matter of waiting for it.
I’d been through a similar process several times in recent weeks.
The only thing of interest was how the person handled it, if they chose to tell the truth or if they made up a story.
She made up a story.
She said she had to cancel the reading because of Comic-Con.
I didn’t mind. I felt only relief. And mild amusement.
I went back out into the dining room.
“Well, the reading’s off. I don’t have to fly anywhere now,” I said.
“My mom’s a ‘rape apologist,’ my daughter said, sarcastically, to the boys.
But the boys didn’t know what we were talking about and didn’t care.
The boys were still pissed about the game being cancelled; they wanted to vandalize the field, tear down the fence.
I rolled a six, which put me in the dining room. (I didn’t want to be in the dining room, I wanted to be in the lounge, but the lounge was on the other side of the board and there was only one die. It took forever to get anywhere.)
It took over an hour to solve the mystery. It turned out I, Shaggy, had done it in the billiard room with the spell book.
(Shaggy seemed like an odd person to be carrying around a spell book, particularly in a billiard room, but I didn’t question it, especially since I had made the accusation (i.e. won).)
Later I made a cup of licorice tea and went in the basement. It was still day seven of my alcohol cleanse.
But now I didn’t have to fly anywhere. I didn’t have to buy a ticket.

 

Taco Bell


It was a two hour drive,
An hour of highway and an hour of back roads that ran through small Ohio towns like the one I’d grown up in.
There were a lot of old cars in driveways, a lot of watery cornfields.
“Look, there’s another tiny graveyard,” my daughter said.
We had to fight the urge to stop and walk through every tiny graveyard.
“There’s another pile of old cars,” I said.
It was a similar urge and we fought this one similarly.

“Do you think Dad will want to go to lunch?” my daughter said.
“If he does, it’ll be Taco Bell,” I said.
“I could eat Taco Bell,” my daughter said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m down for Taco Bell.”

I made a left onto the road that led into the park.
He was waiting on the porch, smoking a cigarette, when we pulled up.
My daughter sat on the couch and I sat in a rocking chair.
There were three cats but we only ever saw one.
My daughter’s father brought us plates with slices of potato on them.
The three of us sat eating our potatoes, my daughter on the couch beside her father.

“I can’t believe Mom forgot the time you almost shot her,” my daughter said. It was one of her favorite family stories. It’d only recently come up. I couldn’t remember how it’d come up.

“I guess I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” I said.

“You didn’t think a bullet practically grazing your head was a big deal?” my daughter said.

“I thought it was a BB gun or something,” I said. “Besides, Paul was the one it grazed. I didn’t feel a thing.”

“I heard a noise in the closet,” my daughter’s father said. “I used the back end to move some clothes out of the way and it fired and the bullet went right between Paul and your mother.”

“I sold my gun right after that,” my daughter’s father said.

“I would hope so,” my daughter said, laughing.

After we finished our potatoes we went for a walk to the lake. The park where my daughter’s father lived was empty most of the year. People only came to stay in their campers and trailers in the summer when it was warm and they could use the lake. My daughter’s father had moved down in late fall.

It was spring now and people were starting to trickle in.

“How do you like it down here?” one of us asked, my daughter or I.
“I hate it,” he said. “They’re way stricter with pot down here than in Michigan. They’re way more uptight about everything. It’s a red state. They have me locked down, I can’t go anywhere without them tracking me. I'm thinking of buying a cheap car so i can drive to Colorado."

I thought about the bag of pot I had in a drawer in the back of my closet, how I wasn’t smoking it, how it was just sitting there.

We were on the edge of the lake now. There were all these signs warning you about swallowing the water. We stood and stared at it. Someone drove by on a golf cart. We walked back to the trailer. I thought about how next time I’d bring some of the pot with me.

“Do you want to hear the song I wrote for you?” my daughter’s father said, meaning our daughter. “I was going to get it made on a CD and get the lyrics printed for you and everything before I moved but I never got the chance.”

He was standing in front of the TV, holding a guitar.
There were Grateful Dead CDs on the floor next to a boom box. There were CDs and cassette tapes both.
The song title was our daughter’s name.
I can’t remember the rest of the words.
Later, after he’d finished the song, he said he’d write them down for her.

We went outside on the porch and he started to roll a cigarette.
When he was finished rolling, we knew it was time to go.

“Do you still want to go to Taco Bell?” my daughter said as we pulled out onto the road.
“Sure,” I said. “I could eat some Taco Bell.”

But I was thinking about remembering to bring pot with me next time.
I was trying to remember the lyrics to the song about our daughter.

 


Wolfie III

I can only remember smoking weed with Steve once.
It was either right before or right after I married my daughter’s father.
(We only knew each other a couple weeks before we got married though so it was probably after.)
I remember sitting on Steve’s couch in a mobile home out by the lake.
Sixty Minutes was on so it must have been a Sunday.
Steve left to run an errand or to sell weed or something.
It seemed like he took forever.
But when he got back, Sixty Minutes was still on, so it couldn’t have taken that long.

 

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