Your body with its smooth lines
and muscles moving under skin
like ocean waves
is a necessary thing.
The sunlight on your upturned face,
the shadows hugging the long curve
of your neck, the slow deep
hum of your breath
as you sleep—
all this as necessary to me
as the shell a hermit crab will claim as its home—
not just some thing slipped into,
passed through like a reef and left empty
and broken to toss like a storm-savaged boat
on an angry sea; but something carefully chosen
to become a sanctuary where the heart beats,
the life it carries like a treasure on its back,
the very thing that shelters its softness,
the very thing which may keep it alive.
The first two weeks after my father died were the hardest.
I would rise from my bed each night and stumble
down the stairs wrapped in blankets of shadow,
crawl into his blue recliner
It was a strange thing, this desire I had—
to prove God wrong,
to dispel the concrete certainty of death.
So I waited for him to come home
from his second-shift job
each night for two long weeks,
a stubborn twelve year-old sucking her thumb,
biting her nails, her wrists,
curled in that big blue chair
like a starving child
hugging herself to keep the ghost of him near.
I stared at that door, willed the knob to turn.
Parting the curtains,
searching the quiet city
and each car that passed by in the stillness
For his tall familiar alive body
heading for that door, keys in hand.
Finally, I would turn the knob myself
and creep out onto the porch in the dark of the morning,
the old wood rough beneath my feet,
to watch the traffic lights blink,
listen for the train to rumble past,
and feel the oddly warm winter breeze caress my face
soft on my cheek as a father’s breath
as he kisses his daughter
Funny how time slows down when things get desperate.
When the car will not start,
when the heel of your shoe hopelessly crumbles
like a tower.
In former lives,
women have been murdered for less—
the fall of our hair, the shrug
of our shoulders, the swing
of our step, the lure
of our sex, the bite
of our fruit, the blood
of our strength.
Funnier then, how you will stop and stand
so completely dumbfounded
for the extra unaffordable moment
to watch the unhurried butterfly
bright against black glass doors,
iridescent wings pulsing
like a tiny heart beating softly,
just as rhythmic and fragile.
“I want my daughters to have skills. I wanted to finish
not. I was sorry when I had to leave.”
-Sharbat Gula, the “Afghan Girl” from ‘A Life
treasures in this world do not often
but often glare back a pair of angry eyes
a nightmare landscape
bright with green lightning
hungry like war
like cool brown skin
unused to soft touches
beneath a red shawl burnt
by countless cooking fires
where a heart can be split
open like a black flower
where one knows how impossible it is
to separate the skin from the bones
and all it holds
without stopping the heart
and would long for and perhaps welcome
the love of a quick husband
a warm body to fill the great empty space
who can read this
Amber Decker's first collection of
poems, Sweet Relish (Grundle Ink) was published in 2002 when she
was nineteen. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in several
publications, including: Exquisite Corpse, Subtle Tea, decomP,
Arsenic Lobster, The Rose & Thorn, Clean Sheets and others.
Currently, Amber lives in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia
where she masquerades as a serious college student and spends
her free time learning to ride bulls and play the acoustic