Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

[Two Poems]

by Elya Braden


In my dreams, I’m always rushing for the airport, 
thrusting a purple shirt, a single black sling-back, 
a toothbrush into a suitcase with a clasp 
that refuses to close.

I sprint through rows of olive-green lockers, 
fiddling each dial, searching for my son’s 
yellow Pikachu, my grandmother’s butterfly broach, 
the diamond-less gold band from my ransacked
first wedding ring. 

My bags rumble with all I’ve forgotten.
Destination two coat checks, a mile-long 
TSA line, and a broken metal detector away. 
My breath runs ahead, limbos under 
a velvet rope warning “keep out.” 

I could sleep ten thousand nights, dream away 
a hundred years, and I’ll never get there. Always 
I’m missing that stuffed canary or the red ball
I was sent here to find. 

All the yoga and meditation, the silent unhinging, 
the blinking light racing back and forth 
across the black bar, leave me at a crossroads 
marked with No Vacancy signs.
The Diaspora dusted this round garden 
with the trailings of my people, shallow footsteps 
disappearing in the desert, their tears 
dissolving the map, erasing the path home.


Expiration Date

What I’ll remember are his naked, white feet shoved 
into shiny black wingtips treading the stained floral carpet 
between bed and bathroom in that last-minute daylight hotel. 
I’ll remember his penis slick with my thick blood. What’s that saying:
I’ll dip my pen in the well, but not drink of the ink? Something like that. 
I’ll remember he hated beets. Something about the texture.
Diet coke for breakfast. But was it raining in the parking lot outside
the Barnes & Noble that Sunday afternoon in December when
I was supposed to be shopping with a friend? Did he ask:
“When will I see you again?” My back bent into the curve
of my spring apple-green VW Bug, church bells chiming in the distance, 
my head tipped backwards like a peony too heavy for its stem, 
his large hand clutching my tangle of curls, the air misted 
with exhaust and after-notes of roasted coffee, a single pine needle
stuck to the window. Did I taste the Darjeeling on his breath?
I remember him pulling away. I remember that sucking sensation 
like he’d wrenched my heart out through my mouth. I remember
my chest as hollow as if he’d carried my heart away with him, clamped
under his arm like a lumpy, bloody football, still pumping, lively 
as a chicken with its head chopped off. Do any of us know when
to quit? How we just keep going on past the expiration date
of jobs, marriages, school yards, telephone poles, hope. I didn’t know
it would be our last kiss. I didn’t know until the next day when
my neighbor said, “I saw your green VW at the mall yesterday.” 
Her arched eyebrow implying that wasn’t all she’d seen.
I didn’t know I was supposed to remember the rain.


SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Elya Braden

took a long detour from her creative endeavours to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and collage artist living in Los Angeles where she leads workshops for writers. Her work has appeared in Causeway Lit, Forge, Linden Avenue Review, poemmemoirstory, Rat’s Ass Review, Shark Reef, Willow Review, and elsewhere.

Poet’s website:

“...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