Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 4
Fall 2011

[Three Poems]

Jackleen Holton


When Joe left her for the last time,
on a sunny Saturday afternoon in July,
my mother threw herself in front 
of his jacked-up Ford F-150 truck.
So he stopped, its monstrous engine 
still running, got out and dragged 
her back to the curb. Then he ran 
around to the open door 
and sped off. The neighbors 
went back into their houses 
as she sat in the street and wailed
like an inconsolable child.

The day you said you were going away,
I, not being one for high drama, 
held the door open. You were a loser 
anyway, a drunk. Everybody said
I was much better off. So why do I 
remember it so clearly, that miserable 
morning? You holding your jacket 
over your head as you sprinted 
through puddles, and the way the hard 
rain seemed to erupt from tiny craters 
on the ground, as if the whole goddamned 
world had been turned upside down.


Santa Monica

It’s not often that someone will ask why I never had children, or if I ever wanted them. Mostly, I don’t have an answer. But sometimes I think of that day we stopped to go to the beach one last time on the way back from Grandma’s house before heading east into another yearlong stretch of desert. The late sun shone dimly on the ocean. Donnie and I raced to the water, and Mom took pictures of the two of us playing in the surf. In the one that would have been my favorite, we’re wincing with pleasure as the first brisk wave crashed. I was seven, my brother five. As the sun sank into the blue-gray water and Mom stood up, holding our towels, we bargained for just a few more waves, and she granted them. But soon it was really time to go. We had a long drive ahead. We walked down the darkening lane, nearing our old, dented Monte Carlo. The passenger side door was ajar. Mom rushed to the car to check for her wallet under the seat. It was gone. In the heavy silence, I knew it was my fault. She turned to me, wild with anger. I ran back down the narrow lane to the beach, kept running until I lost her. I stopped on the dark beach, out of breath, sobbing. Where would I go if she got in the car with my brother and left? Then my arm was jerked so hard I fell on my knees. I struggled to right myself as she dragged me over the sand. Grandma had given her a hundred dollars, a hundred dollars we needed. And I had not locked my door. She let go of my arm and slapped me hard. I followed her back to the car, knowing her rage wouldn’t let up anytime soon, knowing I deserved the yelling, the kicking and hitting that I was in for as she drove too fast down the freeway, the suicide threats and the long, high-pitched screams that came from that dark place she never showed anyone but us.


The Keeper

The trip was a secret from his Nazarene parents,
so we kept the photos hidden. In this one, 
Robbie, my first real boyfriend 
and I lean into each other at the end 
of an ocean walkway. The night before
in our hotel room, we talked about the children 
we’d have after college. I’m wearing my favorite 
orange sweatshirt, the one I’ve held onto
all this time. I’m squinting into some luminous
future while Robbie looks through the lens at me
from a distance of twenty-two years, 
still puzzled. 

I want to step into this photograph 
of that foolish eighteen-year-old girl
and the college boy who loves her. 
I want to brush by her, while he exchanges 
cameras with the tourists who’d taken 
the picture, and whisper: I’ve seen 
the future and it doesn’t get any better.
Perhaps she’ll stare at me, glimpse 
her own fate in my eyes, maybe 
even notice the old sweatshirt. Stay 
with him, I’ll say, just before 
vanishing, and she’ll turn to watch 
as he snaps the picture of the older couple, 
arms wrapped around each other, smiling.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury