New Poems at Rusty Toque


Someone’s opened up a doorway to the Occult,
my mother said. She can tell by the presencein the house. My step-dad started drinking again,
can’t take his eyes off my breasts. Tobacco smoke

curls into the humid night, as he sits smoking
in the screened-in porch, black light zapping the bugs.

I imagine he is wonderful to me, call him Daddy
like a southern girl does. I learn to cook

wanting to please him, hoping the ruffle of my apron
will catch his eye. The cicadas whirr

and the owls turn their heads to watch. My step-dad
drags long on his cigarette and the ember glows

like a popped hymen, with its flash of pain and light
in the dark where the girl lays, having crossed over

to some promise land of love.  He smells of Old Spice.

He says, you are just like your mother, so controlling.
He throws the peach cobbler in the sink, shouts

Why can’t you cook something someone wants to eat?
My mom snaps her fingers and says, if you aren’t sure

you’re saved then maybe you aren’t really saved.
My brother says he would never marry any girl

who wasn’t a virgin. My mom says, shhh you’ll hurt
your sister’s feelings.


Oranges, fallen from the trees, polka dot the lawn.
The smell, so thick it stings your lips.My father shows me the pomegranate vine clinging
To the chain link fence behind the Get-n-Go.

He’s back in my life again, like a trick. He comes
And goes, sometimes vanishing altogether

Like a giraffe in the Roman Coliseum,
Impossible to forget. In the aftermath, the breeze

With its blossomed scent zig-zags in the lace curtains,
Swollen like pregnant bellies. Out the window,

High above your lonely head, is a V of migrating
American pelicans, snowy white with black tipped wings,

How they float and hover like a song from a long time ago.
I just wait a few years longer and he reappears,

No idea how, sleight of hand, sudden,
As substantial as everything living, everything in its place.

Heathen Derr (Heather Derr-Smith) Black and White photo taken in Atlanta with Cherry blossoms in the background. Phot by Steven Sams
Heathen (Heather Derr-Smith) Atlanta, photo credit: Steven Sams