Alice Lives Through Paper

My name is written in paper.

Yet there’s frailty in such a thing.

Water smothers it.

Infants can tear it.

Somehow, my name lives beyond

my own life, my family,

and my children.

Dear Alan. Sweet Leo.

Two of my three were stolen by war.

They never came home,

and had nothing more of my legacy than

a name on a stone,

which is short lived compared to paper.

I see my name but beg to read my children’s,

although seeing them would suffice.

Stone lies above hollow graves,

as we have no bodies to bury.

Some may read my name forever,

but who will read yours?



Big Sissy Tatum is Sick

“Sissy’s sick!” Scarlet’s small figure galloped to us at the door as she pointed to a short casket. I had never seen one before. The air curdled around us as my lungs almost forgot to function. Nora followed, as usual, tripping over her own tiny feet. Her hands reached to me, and I scooped Nora up with a need for her customary smile. They were the youngest of the four – No, it’s three now -And they were only occupied with the idea that everyone was there to see them, as toddlers normally are. My boyfriend, Andrew, squeezed Scarlet to bits and nudged her off to continue running amongst strangers from family photos. Nora pointed to her mom, Amanda, a simple sign that we must go to her. Her eyes were heavy, beaten, and full of fog that masked her family-trait of cheer.  “Hey baby…” Amanda purred to Nora, her youngest, and put her arm around us both. Andrew folded his arms around his mourning sister’s drooping shoulders, I think with fear she’d implode. All he had to do to bring her smile back, if even for a moment, was make Nora laugh. “So will you be the mini Big Booty Judy? You eat like a little monster just like Tatum did!” Amanda breathed a smile, almost as if it was a relief. “We love all you buggers…” I nudged Amanda, and pointed to her oldest. “Even the teenage one.” Bailey was only 12. She had the courage to smile, even when near the dead beat, or what she calls her dad. He’s Tatum’s too. He looked almost lively, but smelled of a music festival, itched of craze, and had eyes almost entirely pupil. The only time Tatum mentioned him was when she couldn’t wait to see him on her birthday. He never showed up, until now. Andrew’s arm gripped Amanda with more stiffness at the sight, and he gravitated us to Tatum instead. We moved with feet of anchors. Scarlet noticed and skipped to us, securing herself to her mother’s leg. Amanda lifted her so she could see her big sister, who modeled a princess crown upon her head. It was fitting of her sassy, yet go-lucky, attitude we dearly missed. Scarlet copied her mother as she trailed her fingers down Tatum’s hair. “When will sissy get better?” Amanda’s eyes grew with a puddle that I may have only guessed could fill an ocean by then. Her response was matter of fact. “She’s our princess. We have to climb the tower for her first.”


My grandfather Gordy was my inspiration, my first best friend, my partner in crime during my early years, and so much more. I lost him to cancer in April 2016. I miss him more than anyone can know and I still cry over the loss I feel in my heart. This is dedicated to him, and made for my grandmother.


No Problem

At age three,

you introduced me

to your morning tunes.

“Good morning,

Good morning!”

Your cheerful jingle

was less than appealing

for a kid who only wanted

to sleep in. You’d offer

me three things for breakfast.

“We’ve got Cheerios,

cheerios, and cheerios.”

I think you annoyed me

just to bring my smile out

even when I was exhausted.

I spent more time

at your house than my own.

I’d lie underneath

an old, rickety tractor

and hand you tools from

a worn and rusty toolbox.

It was a task you assigned to me,


My white clothes

would get dirty,

and I’d often lean up

too fast and bump my head.

My mother would panic,

but I would never cry.

All you had to say was,

“No Problem.”


At age seven,

we went camping

with grandma almost

every weekend. I knew

your phone number

before I knew my own.

Dairy Queen was our

common hang out place.

We’d take long drives

and explore,

never getting lost.

Once, on our way home,

it was close to Halloween

and you promised

to get a pumpkin for us.

We chanted over

and over,

“Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin!”

It annoyed grandma to no end.

She pleaded for us to stop,

and all you had to do

to calm her from your

maddening melodies

was turn around, look to me,

and go,

“No problem.”


At age thirteen,

you were nine hours away

from me. We could only

visit during the summer.

The Black Hills

hid you deep within the

slopes of dense forest.

We found our way to you,

and stayed for a week.

My bedroom was home

to a John Wayne cut out

that would stare at me

while I slept. It was creepy.

You laughed at me.

Yet, you picked it up

on the second night,

headed toward the door,

and said,

“No problem.”


At age nineteen,

you were only two hours

away now. Although

I was thirteen hours from

home. They told me

you turned yellow one day.

Someone had taken out

all of your guts,

examined them,

and put them back,

like some sick operator game.

As if taking out the parts of you

that make you operate correctly

would tell them everything

they need to know about you,

and why they needed to keep

you around for just

a little bit longer. So I

could say goodbye

to my first best friend.

Two months later,

it was Christmas.

I came home, finally,

and was tearing up

at the mere sight

of you, as you had lost

the step you once had

from following me around

on our old adventures.

You wrapped your arms

around me. I choked

back tears, and said

nothing. You said,

“No problem.”


I’m twenty-one,

I miss you. You left

us last April, and

it’s close to Christmas.

Once I arrive

you won’t be there

to help me

tease grandma,

eat ice cream,

offer Cheerios…

I still have a bear

that you always

kept in the camper

for me to use consistently,

as yet another way

to annoy grandma.

He dances and sings

Teddy Bear by Elvis.

I sometimes sit on my bed

stare the bear in the face

and press its paw.

He performs for me

a song we often sung together

over and over.

My nose tingles

and my eyes overflow.

I wipe away my tears,

set the bear back in

his dusty place on my shelf,

and say,

“No problem.”


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