What Sticks by Kim Mannix

What Sticks

Every soft surface in Grandma’s suite
made softer with plush toys.
Teddy bears guard the sofa,
expressionless dolls, flop-eared bunnies,
and a lifelike white cat take over the bed.

A rainbow of sticky notes
on the cupboards, under light switches.
Hints in her own shaky hand
or reminders left by Mom.

A list on the fridge door, stuck with a leprechaun magnet:
bread; cream; carrots; Bill died in ’92; call Helen S.; margarine

Would you like some tea? asked and answered a third time
and now I guide her to the kettle.

A dog barks in the hall.
The therapy pups, she says. They come on Thursdays.
A glance at a calendar on the beige wall confirms
she’s got this one right.

She talks about the time
the woodshed caught fire in ’44.
From her bed she heard the hiss of flames,
the pop of logs, and ran
across the stubbly grass
in bare feet and just her nightgown.

I remember our collie. Beautiful girl.
She barked and barked at the fire.

The shrieking kettle calls her back.
Sugar…hon? she asks. My name’s slipped
somewhere too far to reach.

I watch her pour the tea and wonder
why some things stick, like
wadded gum to the mind,
while others burn up,
float away like ash.

by Kim Mannix

Guest Editor’s Note: Heart-wrenching story told lightly, vivid details that convey the everydayness of loss, the mystery of what remains.

Please welcome Guest Editor Laura Foley from March 27-March 31, 2017.

From the archives – Sunshine by Kim Mannix

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Sunshine

I’ve been hunting pyrite suns.
Rarer than diamonds, incredible what dirt can do under pressure.
Like sand dollars, Jeanie, the ones we found at Caribou Island,
wearing Daddy’s old t-shirts, making baskets out of cotton.
Boots sticking and slurping in mud.

They feel like china in my hand. Grainy, but delicate.
Tiniest tap against something harder and they crack. Ruin.
They do look like suns, Jeanie. When I brush away the grime,
the rays. Beaming out from center like they’re
broadcasting the very story of Earth.
Soaking up all our histories in coal.

They always have a little stone next to them. Black and slick.
Orbit those tender white discs like a satellite.
Probably not deep, but I see us mirrored there, Jeanie.
The way we let all that muck settle on us.
How our shine lapsed into something murky, after Mama left.
Those stories we faked for anyone who questioned.

Things are brighter here, Jeanie. When I’m not down in the dregs.
The guys at the mine, they call me ham-handed. Slow.
But we’re getting to be friends now. Things are settling.
Got a place too, nothing fancy but the appliances work
and there’s a big window in the kitchen. Lots of light.

I’ve got you here every day, Jeanie.
In the morning, especially, sipping coffee at sunrise.
I don’t have to stencil on that smile anymore.
Make real ones when I think about you.
Found a way to focus on the before of things.
Easier far away from Daddy. Maybe it’s cheating,
but forgetting has kept me all these years.
Kept me whole. Or else my bones would shatter
just like yours, baby sis. Or else I’d just break apart.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 16, 2015 — by Kim Mannix

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Sunshine by Kim Mannix

Sunshine

I’ve been hunting pyrite suns.
Rarer than diamonds, incredible what dirt can do under pressure.
Like sand dollars, Jeanie, the ones we found at Caribou Island,
wearing Daddy’s old t-shirts, making baskets out of cotton.
Boots sticking and slurping in mud.

They feel like china in my hand. Grainy, but delicate.
Tiniest tap against something harder and they crack. Ruin.
They do look like suns, Jeanie. When I brush away the grime,
the rays. Beaming out from center like they’re
broadcasting the very story of Earth.
Soaking up all our histories in coal.

They always have a little stone next to them. Black and slick.
Orbit those tender white discs like a satellite.
Probably not deep, but I see us mirrored there, Jeanie.
The way we let all that muck settle on us.
How our shine lapsed into something murky, after Mama left.
Those stories we faked for anyone who questioned.

Things are brighter here, Jeanie. When I’m not down in the dregs.
The guys at the mine, they call me ham-handed. Slow.
But we’re getting to be friends now. Things are settling.
Got a place too, nothing fancy but the appliances work
and there’s a big window in the kitchen. Lots of light.

I’ve got you here every day, Jeanie.
In the morning, especially, sipping coffee at sunrise.
I don’t have to stencil on that smile anymore.
Make real ones when I think about you.
Found a way to focus on the before of things.
Easier far away from Daddy. Maybe it’s cheating,
but forgetting has kept me all these years.
Kept me whole. Or else my bones would shatter
just like yours, baby sis. Or else I’d just break apart.

by Kim Mannix

Editor’s Note: At first glance, this poem reads like a simple letter from one person to another. However, as the imagery unfolds within the conversational tone, the reader slowly comes to understand the ominous narrative that forms the backbone of these words.