Masquerade Man

by Marilee Pritchard

Put your costume in the closet
I’m unmasking your charade.
Halloween’s finished.
Your trick bag overflows
With honey-tongued deceit—Flowers, jewelry,
Plane tickets to embarkations
I have not yet seen.

Twenty years we’ve been together
In this flowered spread.
Flagstone’s rotted
Down to cement.
Forsythia caves over
Riddled with bugs,
Children grown tall
As icons in oval frames.

I tended our kids,
Minded your mother,
Bedded the flowers,
Buried the dog.

You bedded other flowers
Skirting the highways
Of Paris and Madrid,
Jetting to Jakarta,
Lunching in Rangoon.

Huckster, trickster
Slick of suit, shined of shoe
Who’s quartered my life,
Split me in two.
Unmasked, the Lone Ranger
Will not ride Silver again.

I’m checking out on
The midnight flight.
Like a plane
Bolting down the runway,
November’s roaring in on schedule
Cold with rage.

The Dress You Own

by Marilee Pritchard

Your mother sang rhythm and blues
The day she was late.
You entered the world
Big boned, butt first
Spanked into life.
From the get go—
You knew breathing caused pain.
The last child chosen in gym class,
Nobody’s date for prom.

A month ago a car dropped by—said they
Were taking you to a party.
Dumped at the county door,
Declared a ward of the state,
They gave your pots and pans to the Salvation Army,
Sent most of your pets to the animal shelter,
Euthanized the rest
While neighbors plundered
Sticks of furniture.

Today you sit by the window
Waiting to leave the nursing home.
Your life, a marked down dress,
Cut short, shop worn,
Sometimes ripped apart at the seams
By cheap men whose company you kept
Whose babies you birthed and gave away.

Time’s running out for your tomorrows.
You pick up a cigarette, inhale deeply,
Let its calm smolder over you,
Hoping to keep soot off
The only dress you own.

———
Marilee Pritchard lives and works in the Chicago area. She has dual degrees in English and Nursing. By day she works a boring government job, so she can afford to write poetry at night. She has poems coming out this summer in After Hours and was published previously in Wisconsin Quarterly, Nebo, and Hammers.