Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

[Four Poems]

by Jackleen Holton

The Birthday Party

I am in this picture, 
though nobody knows it yet.

Look! You can see me. I’m
a little crescent, a slim
shadow against the underside 
of my mother’s blue pantsuit.

She’s glowing. My father stands
off to the side, surrounded by 
friends, though he’s not clowning 
or posing for this one. Perhaps

he’s still amazed at how
they managed to pull it off
without him suspecting a thing.
His small apartment done up 

in streamers and balloons.  
A white cake, encased 
in a ring of tiny flames. 

At first glance, this could be 
any photo in that old album. He’s 
clutching his favorite brown bottle, 
the one you see on every page.

But, direct your eye once more 
to the space below her ringless hand.  
See how I wait, in silence, 

in darkness. It’s the moment 
before he’s shocked into 
celebration, before the light, 

the jubilant noise. Before the 					
love he never asked for 
floods the room.

—Previously published in The Evansville Review

She Talks in Our Sleep

After the est seminar 
or the talk on positive parenting 
at the Unitarian church,

she tiptoed into the bedroom
my brother and I shared,
and sitting between 

our twin beds, as our minds 
reassembled the shards 
of the day, 

she recited the suggestions 
she memorized at the 
hypnotist’s workshop. 

She told me this later, 
how she spoke to us then 
of our talents, our beauty, 
how much we were cherished.

It turned out her slumbering
children, eyes darting 
nervously under the thin skin 
of consciousness, were easy to love,

after the meditation tape,
a glass of chablis 
and a valium. For nearly 
five years, she performed 
this nightly ritual.

I can only imagine the care
she took, her voice 
so calm we must have thought 

it was someone else 
in our dreams, taking a deep
breath, then letting it go,

her soft words circling
above us, each one a tiny seed 
borne on invisible wings.

—Previously published in Schuylkill Valley Journal

How Good Girls Go Bad

Before she came we walked for peace, we picked
up trash in parks and won awards. Our troop		
was number one in candy sales. We cooked		
for homeless families and served them soup.	
And then her dad was transferred to the base		
outside our town. I knew she was too cool			
for us. But when they offered her the choice		
between our club and military school,				
she cut a deal, suited up in our red				
and blue. She winked at me and stashed a pack		
of Camels underneath her scouting vest.		
And soon we’d lose ourselves to her, this chick		
who taught us how to steal from liquor stores,
who littered on the streets and started wars.

—Previously published in City Works Literary Journal; also appears in San Diego Reader (11 July 2012)

Walker Creek

If I must be lonely, let it wash over 
me in this place where water weaves 
through stone and oak 

branch bows down to adore 
its leaves in the quivering 
music of this creek.

If I must grieve, let it be against 
the backdrop of  this sky,
as an ancient star spends the last
of its light on a prayerless dive.

If I must be broken, let the shards 
be scattered here, along 
this red-twigged path, beneath
a thousand years of trees.

—Previously published in Parting the Future: California Poets in the Schools 2011 Statewide Anthology

SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Jackleen Holton

works as an astrologer and intuitive life coach as well as a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools and Border Voices. Her poetry has appeared in the anthology, The Giant Book of Poetry, and her first collection, Devil Music, was published in 2005 by Caernarvon Press.

“...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