Poetry: stephanie roberts

It’s The Smoke That Kills You

My memory cuts like a machete while the written words stutter butter knife.
The past has a chasm, between a circus with its menace of clowns, lurking
unreconciled, and the now of these pretty pleases. On a scale of one to ten
how would I rate my childhood? My four made him reconsider me as less
than I seemed.

The present denies the past by appearance. Obese half your life, the gain of
thinness for the remainder presents a puzzle of where did that more of you
come from?
Where’s the reliable connection after perfect attendance at the
school of Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, with a bachelor’s in May the Bridges
Burned Behind Me Light My Way—summa cum laude.

A skeleton’s hand fondles my shoulder; there is something many-eyed under
the bed. The feather of my voice pains me—an unpleasant reminder of its
fragility, and inability to carry arpeggios of love without outages of audible.
This begins the story of my friend Denise.

Then girls were Lisa, Cheryl, and Denise, with a light sprinkle of Sharons.
On the evening news we all watched Denise’s older sister die in a fire. Big
deals—fires, and children dropping from high-rises like bags of garbage (as
the eyewitness, Javier, my classmate, was quoted, in The New York Daily
). The camera watched the window where she tried to rise to life before
her transformation. A price for living in the sky.

It’s the smoke that kills you. Spooky. Grandma Martin had a burn scar her
entire right side the outcome of a tango with cotton gown and old-timey oil
lamp. Her daughter inherited a cold terror of fire and the peril of the house
burning down, in the night, with us unattended, while she worked. You can
die a thousand times from fire not burning you.

After a time, Denise returned to school wearing nice new threads of the past.
Older sisters have the nicest things. The end. See how poorly the past plays?
and even lies? Denise was never a friend.


stephanie roberts is a poet and interdisciplinary artist. Her work is featured or forthcoming in numerous journals, in North America and Europe, including Arcturus, The Maine Review, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Burning House Press, The Gambler, and Claudius Speaks. She was a finalist in the Anomalous Press Open Reading, the 7th Fortnight Prize of Eyewear Publishing LTD, Medusa’s Laugh Press Nano Text Contest, and the Causeway Lit 2016 Fall Poetry Contest. The self-published author of the poetry collection The Melting Potential of Fire, she counts among her strengths passionate curiosity and good humor. Twitter @ringtales.

© stephanie roberts 2017