Month: April 2016

Melanie’s Felonies–a poem

I have a terrible problem with constantly tinkering with my writing. Like Whitman, I continually revise and rewrite them. Some enjoy the moment of creation, whereas I enjoy revision. This poem is one that I’ve revised a number of times now. I wrote it over twelve years ago,and have rewritten it as many times. It’s been published twice, each time with substantial changes, and as I was washing dishes this evening, something in the damp grass and budding lilacs brought it to mind, so I pulled up and and began tinkering with it again. It was part of an abandoned series of poems I was writing about childhood along the lines of “Spoon River Anthology,”with an elementary school rather than a graveyard tying the poems together.

I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied with this rewrite, but it was quick and fun–and a nice distraction from my novel in progress. I will get back to it.


Melanie’s Felonies


That fateful first day of 5th grade

with her red hair in braids

and freckles speckling her cheeks

like cinnamon sprinkled on pancakes

Melanie sauntered into the classroom

carving her name on the heart

of each boy in our class.


I spied her from the swingsets at recess—

A boy at the playground waterfountain

received a kick in the shins

and his friend standing beside him

a punch in the stomach

for whistling at Melanie

as she flitted across the blacktop.


Her eleventh birthday she celebrated

at The Lucky Dragon.

She laughed at the boys who

prodded ginger chicken

and catapulted rice onto the table

with proudly fumbling fingers and chopsticks.

By her side, unnoticed, I

shadowed her – spreading the cloth napkin

across my lap and cradling my fork as she did.



The night I stayed at Melanie’s house

we pirouetted and sashayed

in front of her bedroom window

staticy nightgowns

clung to our bodies like saran-wrap.

With our eyes screwed tight and our heads tilted back

we spun around and around

and she made a wish.

When we opened our eyes

she told me to see

dangling from the elm tree—

all of the boys from our class,

an audience of monkeys swinging from monkey-bar branches

ogling us with desire.


Illuminated by her nightlight

Snug on her bedroom floor

in Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bags—

two pink inchworms we huddled


mint chocolate chip ice cream

still on her breath

tingled my cheeks

as we

shared secrets



alone in her bedroom at night

Melanie covers herself in a sheet


pretends to be a ghost.


Last fall going door-to-door selling

Girl Scout cookies

she kept all of the money she made

and in the front seat

of a broken-down VW van

in best friend’s backyard

she stole a kiss

from an unsuspecting boy.


On snowy December evenings

Melanie sneaks out of her bedroom

and strolls through the park.

She populates the stretches of solitude

with snowangels

and spells out the names of the boys

she secretly loves

with a stick.

Lying in the snow

she crafts constellations of their faces

in the stars.


Before we went to sleep

Melanie shed her sleeping bag

knelt down at the foot of her bed

and prayed.


The moonlight and starlight

and maybe even the nightlight

gilded her—

she reminded me

(forgive this blasphemy)

of the Virgin Mary.



The 4th of July


caught up in the excitement

of cannon blasts and explosions

pointed her forefinger and cocked her thumb

aiming directly between the eyes

of the man-in-the-moon,

fired! She turned to me,

leveled her weapon and

cried triumphantly

“Boom!” with a blast

that blew up my heart.


At the end of the summer

Melanie moved.

Without a “good-bye”

she disappeared—

like the sere leaves of the lilac trees

outside my bedroom window

shorn from the branches by a breeze—

blown to another corner of the earth.



Now at night

before I sleep

I imagine Melanie kneeling

at the foot of my bed.

Bathed in the moon’s halo

Her breath warms my toes

peeking from my sheets

as she prays for me.