They get hazier
each time a blip on the radar makes room
for incoming data, a new memory shaking details
off the ones before, colors bleeding out
tones falling faint, leaving
pixelated lineations of each
of my ghosts, shells I’ve molted and left behind
breadcrumbs for when I go back—

Self portrait with a 7&7, Riordan Ranch, 2003:

—standing over our record player
under a galled Johnny Cash
wall-sized and flipping me off
picking up the needle to play “To Ramona”
for the 22nd time
because each time I heard the first stanza
I convinced myself
he might walk back in the door—

Self portrait at a pay phone, Granada, 2005:

—holding a receiver up to my ear,
a camel hump of books on my back because
I’m calling between morning classes to say
I’m not keeping any promises
that we never should have expected otherwise
already tasting how I would drown
the word “marriage” out of this memory—

Self portrait with a bottle of Sauza, Promontory Pointe, 2008:

—slumped in the dark, moon shining
through cheap slatted blinds,
all shadow with stitches of spotlight
but my silhouette is there
hunched cheek to table
with a pool of tequila
marking territory in the woodgrain,
what will be chalk markings
at the crime scene.

How long does it take
to become a ghost? And then
another? And when will
yesterday’s new radar captures—
daughter holding my hand
in a raining lot,
seeing our shadows and asking
“Are we the blackness, Mommy?
Are we making the blackness we walk on?”—
when does that begin to fade
so that I forget the exact words she chose,
start to discolor in my memory
the bright red shoes
and purple glitter nail polish she picked away
except for a smile left in the nail bed?
When will I follow the trail back to this
and see only the inky shadows
in the wet street, resembling
no one in particular?

In response to artwork by:
Chris McCaw
Self portrait with beer, South Dakota, 2000

platinum/palladium print
20.8 × 24.9 cm (8 3/16 × 9 13/16 in.)
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: Purchase


 

Alicia Brall is a Phoenix native, married mother of two, and noted logophile. She holds a degree in English with a creative writing focus. Love of her daughters is rivaled only by love of coffee—and depending on the day, it’s a close competition. She has a cat, dog, enviable collection of journals that are “too nice” to use, and a track record for killing houseplants. And hey, can we get a refill on this coffee when you have a chance?

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