Pris Campbell: Six Poems

Unexpected Shoals

Old loves fall like raindrops
into my dreams lately.
My first husband….

I still won’t call you by name.
To do so is to remember
when you still loved me.

I dreamed I found our old sailboat
destroyed on  the shoreline.
Despite birds scavenging and old men
leaning hard over metal detectors,
I discovered a winch, a bracelet you bought
for my birthday, our flag and a framed photo
of us mugging for an unseen photographer.
You kissed me after, hands already lifting
the edge of my tee, eager to go below.

I gathered my findings, carried them upshore
and buried them.

I didn’t bury the flag.
I left that as a warning for new lovers,
to take good care in their own odysseys,
a reminder not to wear blinders
against shoals that still lurk
in the brightest of nights.



He falls into grace occasionally,
remembers dawn’s colors, old
lovers’ names, his favorite song.

He asks for home, forgets
this small room is his home,
that the place where he loved,
laughed with friends, carved
his heart into a tree,
has vanished beneath his feet.

He drops forty pounds, his knees
throb. His first wife appears,
disappears into the shallow walls.

Strangers in white bring him food,
pick him up when he falls,
wash his socks, his red shirt.

‘Don’t get old’, he advises his son,
before he again slips through
that veil of a thousand dreams.



I pine for him, this
senior with the golden
hair and smile.
He’s out of my league,
dates the pretty girls
who giggle down the hall
in penny loafers, cashmere
sweaters clinging.

He’s not interested
in stick figured girls
with bad perms, glasses,
braces on their teeth.

Each night I imagine
he’ll see the swan
behind the duckling,
choose me for a date,
a kiss, maybe even
become my lover
when I’m older, but
he marries a cute junior
right out of high school.

Shattered, I let him fade,
like jeans I’d worn too many
times and never did fit
right to begin with.

Yet now, when I’ve just heard
he’s dead, when my heart’s
been broken too many times,
virginity lost to the wrong man,
he ghost-walks my mind again,
tells me he loves me.
I hold him, re-visit innocence.


Witness Protection Program

Husband dead, blackouts ambushing,
my mother migrated to southeast Florida,
condo-packed home to Jews, Catholics,
Hispanics and pushy Northerners.
A train wreck from soft southern accents,
magnolias, bi-monthly fellowship tables
rump sprung with fried chicken and pie.

I stood as the only unbroken link
in her crushed chain to before
felt helpless to make this feel right.

Augusta, she introduced herself
to these strangers who’d never known her
as tomboy Gus, motherless Gus at thirteen
who hand cranked her father’s Model T
to go back road riding with friends.
They hadn’t known Garbo-lookalike Gus
who taught their kids , sang
in the church choir, or served coffee
from the pink and green chocolate set
that sat on her dead mother’s sideboard
for so many years before.

She wrapped herself tight in this new name
before the cock could crow,
betraying ripped roots still clenched
in her whitened, shaking hands.


Flag Man

The flag man, skin the color
of old chocolate, walks
down our street, nails flags to trees,
telephone poles and mailboxes.
He would tuck one under our dog’s collar
if he could catch him.

It’s the fourth of July
every day, thanks to the flag man.

He stands in front of his house,
waves happily at passing cars,
never cares that traffic is scant
on this one-block, go-nowhere street,
not minding that those few lost strangers
quickly roll up their windows,
slam locks shut when they see him
flapping his flag in front of their hood
like a crazed, overweight matador.



Spirit still sprawled on her bed of death,
Marilyn Monroe pens her memoirs.

A tell-all about Jack and Bobby
and what really happened the night that she died.
Old news, true, but she figures a lot of people
still want to know.

Nobody palms off the goddess of sex,
brother to brother, in that sick incestuous
sharing, without payback finally arriving.

Too late, she realized they only wanted
the sex vamp, notches in their belts,
their face in her cleavage.
Not scared Norma Jean, hidden beneath the shell.

Jack grew horns whenever he came near,
groping her breasts, thrusting inside
too fast to please. But what could she do?

Oh, Mr. President, go slower.

But she’d already boarded that freight train to hell,
the Kennedy men’s favorite transport for their women.

A gypsy has promised to download her story to crystal,
blog it onto the Internet, tell the Post and the Times.

Maybe the hullabaloo will even outsell stories
about Charlie Sheen and Justin Beiber.