memories

“Top Ten Memories of the Green Chair”, “In the Valley of Secrets” and “Sweater Weather”

In Poetry Issue Nine by Joni Renee

memories

Top Ten Memories of the Green Chair

I.

The green chair was the width of a three-year-old

so when stretched horizontally across your legs

I was perfectly encapsulated by its soft, mushy arms and you

you put cherry blossoms in my curls


II.

I'm tiny, hiding from the babysitter behind the green chair for hours

she's losing her mind, talking about calling the police

Later you tell me this is a brutal prank to play on someone's first day on the job


III.

We went to the rodeo for the fourth of July

Everything was fine until the explosions began

I bury my face in the lower corner,

hoping the chair can swallow my ears

and make fireworks never happen again


IV.

rocking softly by the woodstove

burning the logs of unsold Christmas trees

We didn't celebrate Christmas but we grew the trees for those who did and you said

something important about others worshipping in their own ways


V.

In the season of the mustard bloom

When the wineries came with their out of state money

and the gravel roads all got paved

you brought twelve soaking migrant workers to our house for hot oolong tea

they sat in the living room, dining room, and green chair

you said something was wrong with their wages

Later we drove them back to the vineyards, their legs hanging over the tailgate of the Ford, our

hair frizzed and sprinkled with rain, yellow everywhere


VI.

We didn't call it bullying back then, we just called it a hard day

In Los Angeles I lost more than my honor, I lost my whole self

A teen has no reliable way to verbalize the internal

disturbances that follow a rape so you listened with your eyes


Who was so cruel to you that you vowed to be kind?

or

Who was so gracious to you that you had nothing but good left to spare?


Put me in my chair please and never make me stand again

Through the pleather, from the foam, a cheery perfume of Douglas fir


VII.

I will do homework forever

Let's see if we can still squeeze into the green chair

and read our essays together.

Let's apply for college together.


VIII.

The look in your eyes reading scholarship letters.

(sitting in the green chair)


IX.

When you started sleeping all of the time

It was nice to see the comfort that the green chair could bring

when a vitamin regimen couldn't

when a drug couldn't

when Chinese Medicine couldn't Once even I couldn't


X.

Three hours after you died

Rocking horribly, white shock hissing through my nerves

This isn't really a favorite memory, just the last memory

I knew in that moment the green chair was

Too precious to sell, too functional to throw away, too onerous to keep

It would have to be set on a pyre built of unsold Christmas trees

atop a raft of cherry blossom trees

and driven out to Pacific City at night,

under the cover of Tillamook County haze

to be pulled out of the back of the pickup truck

to be dragged across the sand into a cold and unforgiving sea

to be set ablaze by a sapling arrow shot from atop a sand dune

with an arrowhead you scavenged from the Utah desert as a child

lit by the color of my hair

tell me this is a worthy death for one item

owned or touched by you.

In the Valley of Secrets

From across the salt flats a bitter wind

rose and wound its way through rocky pass dwellings of

those who've renounced money, whispered

in through the accountant's open window, into lungs

that never smoked except when he was sixteen after 4H

and slipped out as a death rattle into the night flurries over Wy'east.


Under the watchful eye of rose stained glass

the heavy-lidded shuffled, bearing hot tins of

sliced peking duck and succulent bok choi and delicate pork wontons.

Progeny music from the garden

ambled down to the Schnitz; flamenco

dancers went hand in hand with coffee

roasters and single mothers.

Sweater Weather

Now is the time to make things. You got the hot jazz you wanted, 30

reams, a bay window, my lower belly, and that large art deco piece.

Now the goal is to drink better and better bottles of wine, so when

with smart colleagues, never hoot, “Best wine in the world!” It gets

better. Ignore massive, mounting pain. Focus on getting a job in your

field. Only one of us did, and it's not scary talking to inmates, she

says, because you're just Skyping with them really, they don't even

know your full real name. The bed is finally the right size, still

most nights we just fall in shivering with our three-step regimens and

rarely you touch me. Costa Rica is on the fridge like a branding iron

on my flank. There are too many splinters in my new desk and me.


If I call out, I want to use my full real name.

About the Author

Joni Renee

Website

Joni Renee is an artist and writer from rural Oregon. Her art has been shared on such diverse stages as The Moth in Portland, the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts in Costa Mesa, California, and the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn in partnership with the Morpheus Youth Project. Her writing explores themes of nature, family, and the body, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Superstition Review, xoJane, and regional journals. Her chapbook, Your Full Real Name, was published in 2017 (Future Prairie Press). She is best known for lush accounts of intimate meals, loss, pastoral youth and discovery, and queerness.