a poetry e-zine

Featured Poet - Amber Decker

Amber Decker is a thirty­something, blue­collar poet and poetry activist from West Virginia who has had work published in numerous print and online journals, including Red Fez, Zygote In My Coffee, Exquisite Corpse, and Contemporary American Voices. She is a lover of horses, hooded sweatshirts, coffee, Dungeons & Dragons, werewolf movies, good wine, George Strait, Miles Davis, and the wit of Henry Rollins. Her latest collection of poems, The Girl Who Left You, was just released by California's notorious Six Ft Swells Press.

Poems by Amber Decker


The chilled leather seat against my bare ass. Laughter. He smelled like baby powder and oceans. It was nothing like I thought it would be. It was better. Wild. And deeper. And more.


Like Prometheus on the mountain, he lit my cigarettes with stolen fire. He was desperate and afraid. He wanted a story to hide in his wallet with the rest. He loved me, until he didn't.


The streetlights. The moon. The houses. The barred owl sat on the telephone wire, who said nothing.


He peeled me apart with his tongue until my thighs were sticky, dripped like cherries poured from a jar.


There was a hurricane blowing up the coast that weekend, like a hand sliding up a leg in the front seat of a car. It rained for days. I cracked and split like a levee. Some part of me believed that I asked for this, that I wanted to write my name in blood on his hands. The wind screamed when I couldn't.


The roses would disappear from the table in the hall. My memory would wash from his sweaters like the smell of smoke. I would find bobby pins on his bathroom sink, wet spots in the shapes of foreign countries on his blue sheets, souvenirs of girls who were not me.


Nothing. And everything. I am afraid to write this poem. I am afraid to not write this poem.


He told me I was beautiful. Then he fucked me on the couch while his roommate watched from the long, slanted shadows of the kitchen.


He drew a heart with his finger on the window in the steam from our breath and wrote my name inside. His misguided love was a gunshot, point-blank. The sharp curve of the bullet leans on my heart, obstructs the flow of blood. My hands are always cold.


Only when the wounded animal in me allowed me to speak.


I feel everything.


It's never not a surprise, how easily
girls can be dragged off
into the night. Game over,

stadium lights
snuffed out,
one by one.

Kids retreating
from the school parking lot
in their rice-burners
and pickups. Miles out,
the bonfire was lit by 11pm,
burning up the sky,
pushing back the darkness.

In the beginning,
we were taught to light fires
for survival.

Sometimes, we do it for love.
Because we need an excuse
to get drunk and laugh, to forget
that our backs hurt, that our hands are
chapped and dirty.

But even our kind,
with our shotguns and bravado,
have the sense
to be scared of monsters.

We know that monsters
don't always look like monsters.

You can ask the ghost
of the local woman
whose clean-cut ex-husband
slashed open her throat
at the post office
late one night.

When shit like that goes down
in a small town, people get nervous.

They start locking their houses up
a little tighter at night, keeping their dogs inside.

I drive with a tire iron at my feet sometimes.
When I'm in town after midnight,
I won't stop at red lights.

I've seen predators in the parking lots of bars,
eyeing my thighs, gauging my ability
to balance, to run (or not) in high heels.

These are the stories
mothers tell their daughters,
keys in hand, tiny vials
of mace dangling from metal rings.

We know that the unmarked paths
through the forests are thick
with wolves who come
purring, stroking, wanting.

We know where the lit circle ends,
where we should never go.
We know. We know.

But the two girls in cut-offs
with sweet, news-ready faces
and futures of gold
were still a shock.

Maybe they forgot the rules,
got a little too drunk, but that
doesn't matter.

Those three boys,
football scholarships tucked
in their back pockets,
knew what they were doing,
slipping Gem Clear into the cider.

They knew damn well
which tendons, severed,
will keep any animal,
no matter the size
of the fight it holds inside of it,
from running off.

None of us thought it was odd
to see headlights blazing
in the fields, bouncing
over row after row of tilled dirt.

We saw the familiar light
and thought this is how it is out here,
where teenagers sneak off
into the forbidden dark
of the pastures to make out.

In school, we learned
how to strike the flint, keep
the tinder lit long enough
to catch, how to keep a flame caught
even in the rain.

We were taught
to keep our skirts pulled low,
our heels lower, and our legs ready
for the anything our fathers
swore could happen.

We were taught to survive.
We were taught to tell the truth.

At the station, the policemen
only smirked at our insistence
that the monsters were pretty, sure.

But they were as real
as you or me,
wanting what they thought
they were born to deserve,
and they were not afraid
of a little fire.

Thank You For Your Service

At the airport cafe, we hug goodbye like stiff wool.
Man in uniform, oak tree in a storm.
Backpack slung over your shoulder, face
clean-shaven, peaceful
as a Buddhist temple.
Last night, the bartender swept up
scraps, broken bottles cast
like the shells of locusts
into the trash while we slow-danced, your knee
between my thighs. In bed, we collided
like radio transmissions, like natural disasters.
And now we stand, shoulders
thrust back in daylight, chests open, eyes
focused on far-off horizons,
calm, still as reflecting pools.
For the briefest of moments, I see myself
as you must see me. A warship half-buried
in desert sands, planks dried
and split by the sun. My face
is a rusted anchor that doesn't speak.

A Cautionary Tale

“Careful poetry and careful people live only long enough to die safely.” - Charles Bukowski

At dinner, I used to order salads
when what I really wanted was steak,
bloody and godless.
I refused the chocolate cake,
the sugary mixed drinks
that tasted like
strawberries and summer,
sweet on the tongue.

My dresses were black,
shapeless and boring.
I wanted to be red
and dangerous
for once in my life.
A road laid out
in the romance
language of curves.

I have become resentful of safety,
of a calendar filled with
carefully measured days,
post offices,
planned meals,
the dull business of grocery lists,
clocks with bold white faces
and black numbers
that name the hours
as they speed by
like cars on a busy highway,
going nowhere

while I drink green tea,
do yoga,
dream of cathedrals,
sex in cars
with men who make me
dream in color.

I want to know
what the rain feels like
on shoulders not dressed
in the rags of worry.

I speak the word
like a prayer,
as if I believe
I have a thousand years
to reach for the bird of desire
perched on its high branch.

The sun always rises
too fast
over the mountains
as I watch through my window
like a woman
witnessing an accident
of fate.

I am not content to keep busy
with the careful drudgery
of dying.

Sometimes, I think
I can hear the tender words
people never say
to one another.

Sometimes, I tell myself
like I am telling you now:
to ask out loud
for love
does not mean you
are broken.

Let's Be Honest

There is nothing sweet
or pretty or innocent
about a wolf whistle serenade
from the open window
of a strange man's car.

I want to own my own
piece of sidewalk,
to feel safe on top
of whatever touches
the underside of my shoes,
no matter
how small it is,
wherever I choose to walk
or jog or run or dance,
morning, noon, or night.

I want to feel good
about eating
frozen yogurt
or pizza
or a fucking banana in public
without the sportscaster commentary.

I want every man to understand
that a low-cut blouse,
and tongue-wet lips
are not a welcome mat
rolled out like a red carpet
for you to scuff
your boots or
your heart on.

I want to testify
that even on my drunkest, hottest
sorority sweetheart
these heels have never, ever
screamed “fuck me,”

and I can promise you that my dress,
no matter how short or tight
or missing all together,
has never possessed
the ability to speak,
to tell you or anyone
that I am asking for anything
I don't want.

Because, listen, dude,
the fact is
only my mouth can do that,
as long as you don't go around
telling it to smile.


Copyright 2014  Chantarelle's Notebook