She carries an odd aroma, the smell of a bad head,
something I felt as she screamed at the bed
for not being made. A story in her face, a jilted tale,
the wrinkles of her eyes because she cannot sleep on Mondays.
A girl who can walk backwards but cannot see
without some sort of filter, a film of gauze across her eyes,
a wound still healing, a hiccup in her breath every time
she takes her medicine. On her birthday
I asked her to make a wish; instead, she poured herself
into the twenty-some candles, her eyes bled fire, and she
began to sing “Jingle Bells.” It was June. I once
held her hand as we walked through a busy marketplace,
but she slipped away, a child eager for a thrill, a beast
in heat, and I discovered her near one of those fishing booths
filled with that morning’s catch, crying, sobbing, snot
all over her face, because an elder couple who passed by
moments earlier, according to her, did not have much.
Today I ask her if everything is fine, a phrase I use
every time she stirs honey and cinnamon into her coffee.
She smiles through the fog, says for the fourth time that day,
“I’m okay,” but her brain palpitates. She smiles again.
"Bottom of the Bucket"
There are flies at the bottom of the Ancient Age bottle.
“Protein,” you once said as you poured yourself another shot.
You left the front door open again.
Summer moths and lightning bugs swarmed the living room.
I am the only one who notices the rot in your teeth.
The patch of melanoma on your cheek looks like a raindrop in May.
You are an angry drunk, a creature with bloodshot eyes.
When I was younger, I listened to you beat my mother.
I waited for your phone call on my 26th birthday.
A foolish daughter, I only wanted to hear my name on your tongue.
We shot arrows into hay bales and drank Budweiser together.
That was the same night the cops took you away in handcuffs.
There is salt in your voice as you speak to my wounds.
You promise the world, yet give me a handful of rust.
You found me suspended over a body of salt.
When you tried to touch me there, my wounds
spelled my name without vowels and skin.
I am hoarse and drained, absent from your palm,
the lisp that consumes you when you try to sing.
Here is the breath you steal in the morning,
the clear cloud that fills you with sugar and rain,
and I try to sneak inside you, reciprocate some
sort of vile compromise, remind you of that promise
you made when you were a child. You are
illiterate, and I am just a fractured bone.
Amber D. Tran graduated from West Virginia University in 2012, where she specialized in lyrical non-fiction and contemporary poetry. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the Cold Creek Review literary journal. Her work has been featured inCalliope, Sonic Boom Journal, Spry Literary Journal, Cheat River Review, and more. She has work forthcoming in The Stray Branch, Mandala Journal, and more. Her first novel, Moon River, was released in September. She can be reached at her website at www.amberdtran.com and at most social media platforms as @amberdtran. She currently lives in Alabama with her husband and two dogs, Ahri and Ziggs.