Sometime between sleep’s centrifuge
and daybreak’s coagulation, the small fire
suffocated to the rhythm of the leaky faucet’s
flat plinking waltz. Outside, afternoon footsteps
through parched leaves carry rootless voices
that peel past the open window’s torn screen
with the Velcro zip of bare flesh separating
from a pea-green waffled Naugahyde sofa bed
forced upon us by an old lover. The door hinges
squeal as it opens and two blank figures
shuffle out dragging a hollow human pelt
between them. The first thought curdles up
toward the cracked plaster like toxic smoke.
The next thought scabs over, a dry, black shield.
Mercifully, no light, no air enters.
Every morning has been this way since
the sun fell spinning down out of the sky
and collapsed into the basement
searing our irises and eyelids, singeing our lashes,
roasting us out of our old shells.
If we could speak, what would we say?
Nothing fits anymore? The wires pinch?
This is all for the best?
None of it is true
all of the time.
To breathe in this state
is to risk combustion.
Neither of us is prepared to surrender.
If either of us leaves this room today
I’m going out alone.
Shelly Norris currently resides in the woods of central Missouri with her husband John, two dogs, and seven cats. A Wyoming native, Norris began writing poetry around the age of 12. As a single mother of three sons, Norris had to concentrate on achieving an education and beginning a career to sufficiently support the family. Early in this journey it became clear that pennies from publishing poetry would not feed and shod hungry barefoot boys, so she necessarily dedicated her time and energy to building a teaching career. Meanwhile, working in the shadows grading sub-par essays, and editing for other writers, she has been slow to send forth her own writings into the cold world of rejection and possible publication in obscure volumes. One who struggled furiously with the art-life balance, Norris knew her destiny to be—like Burroughs, Bukowski, Stevens, and Wilder—a more dedicated and widely published writer later in life. While pecking away at various essays, short stories, and a couple of novels, Norris is wrestling a pile of about 100 poems into cohesive chapbooks and manuscripts embodying the vicissitudes of unrequited love and loss, dysfunctional wounds, healing quests, and the role of cats in the universal scheme.