Swimming with Elephants Publications would like to introduce you to our April 2017 Featured Writer: Melissa Rose.
Melissa began writing and performing poetry at age 15 and has been a member of the spoken word community since 2001. She has hosted community spoken word and slam poetry events since 2003 and has been a member of 5 national poetry slam teams. Melissa has been facilitating spoken word workshops with adults and teens for over 10 years. She has performed her poetry all over the United States and Germany and was a featured poet at the German National Poetry Slam in 2010. She is currently the Executive Director of Siren, a nonprofit organization that empowers teen girls through spoken word.
We are thrilled to have Melissa Rose as our April Featured Writer and hope that you enjoy her work just as much as we have.
When I was 8 My father explained to me
Our bodies are 90% water.
That people were ‘jelly fish with spines,
but never as pretty.’
What once was my bi-weekly hobby
Became a daily downpour of Jack Daniel schooners’
Captain Morgan and empty glass throats
still as the table I sat as a child watching my father.
He taught me how to live on sour mash and Bloody Mary Mix.
It took him most of the afternoon to find enough southern comfort
to keep his fault line hands from tremors.
His daily hobby was building ships in the remains of the day’s intoxication.
He would lay out every precious piece
in neat tombstone rows in front of a hungry bottle.
Broken masts. Twisted planks.Hanging thread.
Cradled in glass.
Each finished masterpiece stacked in the empty bottles of his addiction
by the time his liver failed him there were a hundred.
When the two lines appeared on the pregnancy test
I was hungover
trying to piece together the blacked out moment of your conception.
I know there are stories of children who can remember before there were born.
Never asking to exist.
All I wanted was for you to be a remedy
for my self destruction.
But oceans are destructive by nature.
Swallowing ships. Splintering their fragile frames.
Some still-born babies of alcoholics
are so deformed, they are kept for medical education.
Placed in mason jars full of moonshine.
Others are born alive after 9 months of swimming in amniotic liquor
still craving mother’s’ rum-soaked womb.
Each sip makes a fetus drunk for 3 days
so in a sense, you and I
have always been drinking buddies.
We always closed the bars.
4 months later your body a sinking sea vessel still being built.
Underdeveloped back bent into a fragile question
only God can answer.
Child if you can remember this moment of your existence
when you moved in the darkness inside me
as warmth rivered through your limbs
like the lingering heat after a whiskey shot
realize that some ships never make maiden voyages.
Dry docked and only confined to the bottles that they were built inside of.
I understand now some treasures should only be buried
if only to keep them safe from rising tides.
Alcoholic anchors. Spineless mollusk for a mother
Unworthy of a pearl. I was never built to be anything
I pray for mornings of red seas between my thighs
like a broken merlot bottle and think of you perfectly preserved.
My child who will never suffer the cruelty of the air
This addictive legacy or my father’s fate.
I will silence the sirens that for generations
Have driven us to swallow salt water.
My gift to you is a stinging sea that will consume us both.
As my nightly runs to the liquor store bear a glass cradle
I carry in the crook of my arm.
Holding it snug against my body
Like it was precious
As a newborn…
Demeter Speaks to Persephone After Her Rape:
Daughter, the end of summer will always be a signal. You will never forget when spring was taken from your skin. Only the smokey smell of the season’s changing. The chill of the place his hands found. It is amazing how the body remembers. Like the trees after a forest fire, you will ache from a wound you place at the back of your mind. I also know what it’s like to feel empty. I can still remember the hollow absence of you in my womb. When I birthed you into the sun a girl. This was my mistake. I should have known how girls are plucked so easily from the Earth. How they are placed in vases. How their beauty is seen only as something to be owned. Even goddesses are not safe from assault. Every winter, I remember too. How we danced. How we bloomed. How I held you in my arms and whispered “sweet girl” “sweet sweet girl” You most of all should never know how the world only holds you close enough to stab you. How any day may be the day you lose your limbs. How soon enough you will face yourself in the mirror and not recognize who you are. How can I prepare you for that? When you stumble back to me with stories of how his touch reminded you of death. How every year you feel like dying. How the sunlight no longer gives you warmth. How they will make a myth out of you and he will still sit on a throne. There is a reason they call me Mother. I am good at watching the things I love suffer. Holding a place for tears is not easy but I would gladly trade your’s for my own. Anything to let go of watching the journey of my children as they stand painful in abandoned fields like stalks of withered corn. When you walked back from Hades and its darkness I made sure the sun would show you that hiding your pain from the light only kills you slowly. And I will tell you, Daughter that everything dies but it is never the end. Do not forget you are a goddess. That the sun is shining for you. Your skin is not a fruit he sunk his teeth into, it is an orchard. Your body is not a withered stem, it is a rosebush. Every year may remind you, but never forget that above all else, you were made from this Earth. You are not a victim of it. You are the fertile soil. Ready to grow. I will mourn with you. I will show them all how to bend to your pain. How they will share your grief every time you are forced back into his bed. I will plant seeds, naming each one after you, kissing them like children, letting them sleep and dream of your return. And there, in the dark, you will find yourself yourself again. Hands in the dirt, feeling the flesh of your fruitfulness not as something to be stolen, but savored. Sweet girl, you are a survivor. You were made for greater things than the Queen of Death. And you will find them here. In the Spring.
What The Ghost Remembers
The morning after I killed myself
My mother was awake at 3 am
Like she always is.
She never had a premonition.
Only noticed she couldn’t feel the rocks
In her chest
Like she weighed about 150lbs
Smiled at a sunless sky
And fed her dog.
Drank sweet coffee
And left for work
The morning after I killed myself
My father stopped and looked outside
The window of his quiet apartment
Searching for a hand print memory
When I didn’t answer his phone call
He sent me an email
And left a message
To end of my voice.
I want to think they must have known
But living and dying
Are such ordinary
I. When the beta fish died
his body floated to the top of the bowl.
Swaying next to the bamboo
a ghost caught in the
as yesterday’s vibrancy.
faded into a pale complexion.
I took the bowl outside
dug a small hole
and poured the contents
II. When we bury
what is too painful to remember
the earth somehow feels like home again.
The soil between
two shovels in the dark
their body count.
The first child I lost
I couldn’t bear to flush down the toilet.
I left it in a hole beneath a rosebush
still wrapped in its amniotic sack.
Like a seed
I prayed could still grow
or a fish
that had just stopped
The Mourning After
I don’t remember how I got home last night
I woke up hungover
Last night was a blur
Drank too much
Head still pounding I take a shower
Removing the smell of her sweet perfume
Washing away the evidence
Aspirin won’t remedy
I want this stench off me
Scrub off stains left by red hands
Never feel clean
This morning I don’t recognize my reflection
Hope nobody notices
I don’t want to explain
What I don’t want to remember
I was watching her dance all night
I don’t even remember seeing him
She turned my way and gave me this look
The room was spinning
She grabbed my arm
Intoxicated I lost my ability to stand
I swept her off her feet like Prince Charming
I started to feel sick
She said “take me to bed,”
so of course I obliged
What happened next is so hard to remember
A nightmare I relive every time I sleep on my side
A drunken hook up at a house party
I couldn’t believe she wanted me
it all happened so fast
In the darkness
Pants pulled to my ankles
Unknown hands invading me from behind
Plucking clothes off like flower petals
She loves me, she loves me not
I wonder what makes a corpse look sexy
She looked like Sleeping Beauty
My stiff body reacts like rigor mortis
She want me to do all the work
and I’m ready for the challenge
She wants it so bad
Too drunk to move
Too drunk to ask…
Words muffled by the silence of ecstasy
“No, don’t stop!”
We slip into bliss
Into full body relief
He’s taken everything from me
I’m giving her all that I have
Shhh….I hold her still
He holds me down
I make a canvas of her
Painting my passion across her hollow frame
Muffled by pillows
She might love me….
I can hear her heart beat
This experience is out of body
Helplessness burned so hard into memory
When it’s over I feel kind of bad…
I don’t even remember her name
Assault changes everything
Women can get the wrong idea
My body is no longer mine but a possession
It was a one night stand
at the end of one of those long work weeks…
Should I have expected it?
…and some girls you’re only meant to
have incredible chemistry with once
I thought all rapes were committed
in dark alleys by strangers
I had been in a dry spell
Can I admit what happened?
She came at the perfect one…no pun intended
He punched a hole in me
I came, I saw, I conquered
A temple desecrated
A few moments of feeling loved followed by
the comforting monotony of being single again
Trying to forget.
Afraid to tell anyone for fear they will say
I asked for it
We danced a long dance
Like a physical contract
Does this “nice guy” realize
the damage he’s done?
I just hope she doesn’t bad mouth me
for not calling
Ignorance is no excuse for violation
My dignity was destroyed in a single act of dominance
Hey! That is bullshit!
He kidnapped beauty as a trophy of conquest
I never took anything! You gave it to me!
Lacerated vaginal tissue
I thought you liked it rough!
Violent examples of power
hidden under blankets of darkness.
You raped me!
Hey, I didn’t do anything wrong!
And I know what the definition of rape is.