Artwork for Charles Kell's poems

Three Poems
Charles Kell

False Requiem

Mother is still here, alive.
Smoking and drinking alone

in an old, red house in Ohio.
I continually prepare for that day,

hope it will be quick, painless.
No protracted agony, no

long, drawn-out wasting away.
No talk with my sister about placing

her somewhere else. I lie a great
deal. List things, excavate spaces.

Make up stories in order to keep
the ghosts away, and to also draw

them near. Believing the whole
time that all of this is useless. She

was the one—no one else—who drove
to pick me up upon my release from

a Lorain, Ohio prison in 2007.
This sickens me and I hate myself.

All I can do, failing miserably,
is remember her a little, in every

way, the moment I walked out that door,
her face, her brown hair, and she

was standing there alone, waiting for me.

~ ~ ~


He had a way of saying
the truth—all at once
—in a walking barefoot

over broken glass style.
His wish for death
these fifteen long years

finally here. Thought
I was prepared. The constant
practice of slowly shutting

him out: the twice-a-year visits
whittled down to one then none
(the never-replied-to texts).

How, the last time ever
I saw his broken black
truck parked outside of the Time

Out bar—(our bar)—I drove
by without looking back.
Cleaning out my boyhood

room in Ohio after my mother
left I found a photo of him
and me one month after the wreck

in July 1999. My arm is around
his neck—his eyes stare straight
ahead wishing to forget everything

in the world. A tattered Wheeler
Landscaping polo covers him
while I wear a Bridges to Babylon

Rolling Stones concert T-shirt.
I want to describe the look on my
face as hurt yet cannot. I really

thought everything would one day
get better after all of our prisons.
It never did. My mother told

me while I was away Marc
offered to send me money,
“I owe him,” he said, “for all

the money he sent me” while
he was trapped for four long years
at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution.

Here is this photo I’m holding
now. Edges brown, worn down,
my arm wrapped tightly around

Marc’s back never letting go.

~ ~ ~

Nursing Home

Sweat beads my forehead,
mop in hand, trying to soak
up the blood before the kids

walk through the door. Estelle
fell from the wheelchair, cracked
her head open, had to be

rushed to the hospital. Today
thereís a fieldtrip from Howland
elementary school, children

visit in the attempt to lift the almost
deadís spirits. Strange, I think,
like the fieldtrips high school

students make to county jails
to scare them straight. The mop
does nothing but spread Estelle’s

blood on the floor. Hung-
over, wondering if she’s expired,
I rip off my yellow hazard gown,

quickly throw it down
so it mostly covers the pool.
Push my janitor’s cart over

the edges as the door bursts open
and twenty children walk by. No
one notices. Later, I sit in

the parlor chair, staring at the snow
through a window, almost dozing.
Christmas music plays—which I hate—

and it brings me back to another
December, sitting in the Portage
County Jail, waiting for someone

to visit, my name to be called. Then
later, my now-dead father, trapped
in a nursing home for two weeks

recovering from surgery saying
over and over, please get me out
of here, I don’t want to be left here.

Return to Archive

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 48 | The Shame Issue | Spring/Summer 2016