Barbed Wire Heart

wrapped tightly

in rusty barbed wire
the caged heart beats
listless and erratic
an out-of-time clock…

cruel thorns stab
draws tainted blood
that drips poisonous and black
down constricted ribs
forged by shame and blame…

©️2023 jai

Image by Birgit Röhrs from Pixabay

Broken Things

how do you mend broken things
can you mend broken things
that can’t be seen...

cracks that splinter a bleeding heart
clefts that rend a battered soul
chasms that cleave a suspicious mind

empty words are not Band-Aids
good deeds are not splints
love is not glue...

to things that were broken so long ago
that crucial pieces were forever lost
to the merciless left hand of Time

©️2023 jai

Image by Pam Simon from Pixabay

You Want More

People are looking at me funny, especially the ladies at the registers, ’cause I come here nearly every day. But I can only buy what I can carry home. Mama can’t come and we need food, and if anyone finds out Mama can’t come, me and Lizzy and Josh will have to go to one of those foster homes. And they ain’t good places to be.

I know ’cause I was put in one last year. Lizzy and Josh was put in them too.

My third-grade teacher, Miss Fincher, had seen my busted lip and had called someone and they’d picked me up at school and taken me to this place where a woman in white had looked at me all over, my privates too. I hadn’t liked that one bit. Then she’d told a big woman with red hair that I had been “physically abused.”

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Earworm—two interlocking tanka

told too many times

“be quiet, child, you talk too much—

be seen and not heard”

she finds friends under her bed

who listen in the deep dark

dark has its own voice

a twisted cacophony

of hurt and anger

it plants a vengeful earworm

that screams day and night for blood

©️2023 jai

(Note: Some of you guys may have read this a few days ago. Somehow, I inadvertently moved it to a draft, so am republishing.)

Above Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

Inside My Head

nowhere is safe
I’ve heard it said
one place is safe—
inside my head

there, no one can touch
there, no one can hurt
there, I am a rock
solid, hard—a little girl cursed

half a century of walls
erected, plastered, pasted, glued
hold the pieces of me together
never to be moved

do not look for a door
for no opening will be found
ironclad, it shelters an innocent child
who built her safe place around

a damaged mind
a tormented heart
protected from the monsters
who gleefully tore her apart

no comfort for this little child
for no one can enter this castle deep
all alone, forever alone
she sits there yet and weeps

©2023 jai

Image by Anja from Pixabay

Eye of the Beholder

Cassie drifted up and down aisles stocked with mess kits, ammunition boxes, helmets, and such inside Big Mike’s Army Surplus, waiting for the few customers to finish their shopping and leave. Then she’d make her purchase.

Dark head bent, she browsed the racks of clothing that bristled brown and green and beige. She pulled out a camo jacket and checked its size, fingered a faded black tee. She examined a row of scuffed boots that lined the back wall, looking for a pair in her size. No luck.

She wandered on.

At last, the door dinged behind the last customer. Cassie approached the counter and peered down into the glass case. There it was—her salvation.

“What’cha eyeballing, Cassie?” She glanced up at Big Mike. He grinned around the unlit cigar clamped between his teeth.

“Um…I was just wondering…what does that cost?”

Mike’s gaze followed her pointed finger. His brow furrowed. “That thing?” He gestured at the slim, wooden case that lay open beneath the glass, exposing its shiny insides.

“Yeah. How much you want for it?”

Mike scratched his ample stomach. “Now what in hell would a pretty young thing like you want with that?”

Cassie had known Mike for years. He knew things about her no one else in the entire world knew, including her mother—most especially, her mother—but this was none of his business.

She pulled a wad of cash from the front pocket of her baggy, black jeans and plopped the crumpled mess onto the counter. She dipped her head, a fall of purplish-black hair curtaining her face. “I just want it, that’s all.”

Shaking his shaved head, Mike picked up the cash. “Kids these days, spoiled rotten. Think they gotta have everything they want.” He smiled at Cassie, reached out and ruffled her hair as if she were six, not sixteen. Then he began to count.

Cassie’s hand came up to her mouth. She chewed on a blood-crusted thumbnail.

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