Two Poems

by Tiffany Melanson

Last Letter

for Carl

Twenty years ago he sent it from prison, a plea
I ignored. Today the paper wrinkles around the edges
of my fingers as I re-read. Steady as ever
he believed every word he wrote.

I ignore the paper wrinkling around the edge
as my daughter’s lips wrap my nipple.
I want to believe the words he wrote
as the scent of flesh seeps through the page,

and my daughter’s lips wrap my nipple.
It says he remembers the baby in the other room that night,
scent of her powder seeping through the doorway,
and how he held the gun to her face.

He wants to forget the baby in the room that night,
as the other boys stole the life from her father,
and how he held the gun to her face.
He admits at nineteen, it felt warm against his palms

as the other boys stole the life from her father,
he watched, recalling earlier, his mother’s voice pleading.
Who hears at nineteen? He remembers it was warm in his palms,
and the feeling, as if his skin was lifting from his bones.

He says he still hears his mother’s voice pleading
from the corner of the cell where he wastes away,
age lifting the skin from his bones
as he writes this letter, reaching across twenty years

from the corner of the cell where he wastes away.
Brother, though I never answer,
the last letter was a plea reaching across the years.
I forgive you as I read. Steady as ever.

I believe every word you write.


The Poem Where I Imagine Our Childhood Never Happened

Our father never makes love to your mother
and mine in the same short span of time.

He’s never seventeen.

We’re never born.

You never come for the weekend
or share a bed of folded sheets
and couch pillows with our brother, face-to-face
on the living room floor.

We never lay on our backs
next to the pile of old records
and needleless turntable
we spin and spin.

I’m never thirteen.

You never stand with me in the shallow water
of the salt spring until I’m ready, lead me to the edge
of the flat rock ledge.

You never hold my hand when we jump.

Our father never stops forgetting
to pick you up. You never resent it.

You never call in the middle of the afternoon
to make fun of my white girl voice. I never hate you for it.

I’m never sixteen.

You never go to prison for life
for killing a man.

I never open and close your letter
until the paper is so soft I can imagine
it’s your fingers laced with mine.

I never stop writing.

You’re never nineteen.


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About Tiffany Melanson

Tiffany Melanson's poetry has appeared in Coda Quarterly, Bridge Eight and deadpaper, and on Swamp Radio, a live radio show and podcast where she is an occasional co-host, interviewer and frequent contributor. Her work is forthcoming in Eat Poems (an audio chapbook series) and was recently featured in The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens' exhibit, Reflections: Artful Perspectives on the St. Johns River. She teaches poetry workshops, magazine production and oral interpretation at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

Tiffany Melanson

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