Alexis Rhone Fancher
Unsolicited Advice to a Facebook Mom
Stop plastering the site with photos
of your strapping boy on the cliff
of manhood, pitching a no-hitter,
don’t publicize his tuxedo’d beauty
posing with his prom date,
or family jaunts to look at colleges for the fall.
Better to shield him from happenstance,
mistaken identity, the evil eye;
protect him from what you won’t imagine:
a street race.
Pass an egg above his body while he’s sleeping.
Make the mano fico over him with your fist.
Sew small mirrors into his clothes to reflect misfortune.
Tie a red string around his wildness.
When someone gives him a compliment, spit over your shoulder
Then touch wood.
Stop flaunting your boy’s shining face,
his sweetness, how he still
lets you kiss him goodnight.
Listen to me:
Like you, I was once besotted.
Don’t tempt the gods.
Photo of My Dead Son, Taken at the DMV
My son’s photo lives on my computer desktop. In it, he stands at the counter of the DMV, redeems himself from too many tickets, pays the fine, receives a second chance. I can tell he’s learned his lesson, the way he stares into the camera, head in hand, a satisfied look on his face. Like the cat who ate the canary, my mother would say. Death, lurking inside my boy, has yet to make an appearance. He looks immortal. Whenever the photo catches my eye my throat tightens, his face a touchstone. A grief-filled pit. Reduced to a thumbnail, one of a hundred on the screen, my son fights for air. I want to click on his face, open him wide to life, but he would drown in my sorrow if not already dead. Yesterday, A’s son, diagnosed at 17 with an AVM. Tests, she writes, dozens of tests. Her boy, acting like a trooper. I can see she’s still in that hopeful phase; reality hasn’t yet sunk in. I want to tell her about another friend’s sweet boy, who died of the same, cruel flaw, the same, ticking time bomb in his head, but I don’t; I can’t. Instead, I lie awake, night after night, knowing what grief, too, lies in wait, but I can’t save her son. Last night as I finally drifted off, my dead boy covered me with his yellow baby blanket.
Sleep now, Mama, he said.
Anna as War Zone
My sister is a cargo plane of Hail Marys; Anna, the war zone she circles. Her ravaged daughter won’t let her land, tells her to bail, find some other junkie to save. Fuck off, Anna warns her mother, swears she’s clean, then nods off while driving for Lyft. Four car accidents in as many weeks and none of them Anna’s fault? I know you don’t believe me, Anna cries. My sister is a mercy mission, crammed with Narcotics Anonymous pamphlets, drug test kits, ultimatums and a revolving door. She’s low on fuel, her husband ready to walk, the rest of us at wit’s end. A good mother never gives up on her child, my sister insists. I’m speaking to a wall. Today when she radios air traffic control, again, there’s no place to land. Not a chance, my niece tells her frantic mom when she finally answers the call. For a moment, my sister hovers above her, a crash landing, smashed cockpit, clipped wings. Anna holds her at arm’s distance. She does it because she can.
-from The Dead Kid Poems, KYSO Flash (April 10, 2019), selected by POW Spring Guest Editor, Luke Johnson
ALEXIS RHONE FANCHER is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, The Pedestal Magazine, Verse Daily, The New York Times, The MacGuffin, Plume, Tinderbox, Diode, Nashville Review, Wide Awake, Poets of Los Angeles, Pirene’s Fountain, Cleaver, Glass, Rust + Moth, Duende, The American Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. Her books include: How I Lost My Virginity to Michael Cohen & other heart stab poems (Sybaritic Press, 2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here, (2017), and The Dead Kid Poems, (2019), each published by KYSO Flash Press, and Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), an autobiographical chapbook chronicling Alexis’s first, disastrous marriage. She’s been published in over 60 anthologies, including the best-selling Nasty Women Poets (Lost Horse Press, 2017), Terrapin Books’ A Constellation of Kisses, (2019), and Antologia di poesia femminile americana contemporanea, (Edizioni Ensemble, Italia, 2018). Her photographs have been published worldwide, including the covers of Witness, Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Heyday, and Pithead Chapel, and a spread in River Styx. A multiple Pushcart Prize, Best Short Fiction, and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis has been poetry editor of Cultural Weekly since late 2012. She and her husband live 20 miles outside of downtown L.A., in a small beach community overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They have an extraordinary view.