Chemicals Melissa Holm Poetry

local_library Chemicals

by Melissa Holm

Published in Issue No. 170 ~ July, 2011

$ 9.99 for a box of cherry bombshell hair color

and grandma waits for the tick

of my heels up the walk with fuzzy moss

growing in the cracks, demands I turn up the radio,

before the slam of the door.

It’s her hunger for a constant drowning

of ordinary sounds, the rasping dishwasher,

the murmuring fridge, and don’t ask the name

of the song. She doesn’t know. She does know

I come, every six to eight weeks to retouch her roots,

to ask about the other him, the one she didn’t marry

because he left his legs on a cobblestone street

in France, the one who wrote the letter that said:

“You can not marry me. I am not whole.”

She loosens herself from the overstuffed loveseat,

carps about a six day nausea, while I slither

into rubber gloves, shake the developer,

the color flaring into a dark liquid flame

that douses each strand of her scalp and we wait.

She says “ I hear my dead husband speak to me

and felt his presence and his hand on my shoulder.”

She writes his words, then reads them

to me as if she had not written them,

twists a corner of his camouflaged blanket from the war.

But when I ask about the other him, she wills

not to remember, curses the asbestos from the shipyard,

while a cough cajoles her right and left lung,

complains her scalp is burning. The rinse is over

when the water runs clear. I search for some history

written in her hair, crayon red and frazzled,

in the grey she is trying to cover up.

account_box More About

Melissa is a graduate of The University of Mississippi’s MFA program in poetry. She has poems published in The American Poetry Journal, Plainsongs, The DMQ Review and The Southern Poetry Anthology. Currently, she is the Editorial Assistant for The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett Project at Emory University.
  • KPHOLMES

    I remember a version of this poem in critique group and loved it then. Love it now too!
    –Karen Paul Holmes

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