The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Marilee Richards

The Accidental


It was on my mother’s watch
that my infant sister,

in a brave but futile leap for freedom,

popped like a cornel of corn
off the kitchen counter and on
to the floor, dragging

the rest of us down
with her. How quickly flew the demons
from our tiny shaker of hope.

This is what happens
to the conspicuous –

the Ministry takes notice.
Her head was a glass bowl
that spilled red coins.
Was this

when my father, who thought being a father
meant sharing his beer, began to coax death
from the sorrow of his four string guitar?

Lack of oxygen at birth my mother declared
when she enrolled my sister
at the Burbank School for Exceptional Children

where she fit right in with the prolific
microcephalics and Downs
in the cellar

of our family’s despair.
My father, who trotted behind
in my mother’s gravity

like a pet moon
and was lonely

in the way only the dead can be
lonely, just sipped and strummed
strummed and sang, keeping his secrets,
biding his time.



Marilee Richards

Election Day

                 Cottonwood Az. Wal-Mart


Something must have been proclaimed -

a victory

a calling-all-shoppers gold rush
for the beer

because a fold-up kayak is lying
next to the empty ammunition shelves

and unsold plastic pumpkins in a heap

that comes with its own shark
and a label that says easily tipped

and so now we need a bigger cart
while anthems unfurl and candidates trumpet
their mating calls to the last undecided voter,

teetering like the guy who can’t decide
between rings and fries,    speed
                                                 or endurance
a line forming
into an ominous rumble behind him,

thirsty after our quest
for toilet paper and laundry detergent,
Nature’s Own with 2x the fiber

which we’ll eat with Smart Balance buttery spread
supports healthy cholesterol levels

and Jimmy Dean frozen dead breakfast

certified gluten
free before supplies run out


than that table
     of clown shoes at the Goodwill    like in that dream

where you look in the closet and there’s nothing
but clown shoes

and a bowling ball to be tossed by the local hoods
from a walkway overhead
certain as gravity to land

on to whoever choses the wrong lane
Thursday morning rush hour,

as we are compelled along like ravenous deer,

           still piling goodies and services, condiments,
                trinkets, doodads, rights, demands, peeves,
           crockpots, crackpots, pachyderms, protestations,
                balloons, buffoons,

into our basket

of wants
and so close now to filling up
our guzzlers at the Coke machine –

               that we can almost, you know, like
taste it.




MARILEE RICHARDS learned poetry at the Berkeley Poet's Co-op while she worked for Alameda County in the Adoptions Department.  Her poems have been published in The Southern Review, Rattle, Asheville Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, The Sun, and many other journals.  She now lives in Arizona where she walks with her dog in the near by Secret Mountain Wilderness.



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