Brief Biography: Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. She’s the author of three poetry chapbooks and three flash fiction chapbooks. Her poetry and stories appear in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong Quarterly, Nano Fiction, The Los Angeles Review, and The Collagist. Her recent novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow, is available at Amazon. Reared in the Appalachian South, she now lives in Santa Barbara, CA.
Cousin Lynette says she’s tired from cleaning
East Main houses of rich bitches. They don’t even shit
like us, got toilet seats that float to the bowl,
never make a sound, & she hands me the baby
over the front seat. Days off Merry Maids
we like to drive her ’97 Trans Am to Gulf Shores—
kd lang over eight speakers.
I’m tired too, tired of being the babysitter.
Leah, grabbing my earrings, covers me in crumbs.
She bites off the heads of animal crackers.
Only eats heads.
Don’t know why I hang with her.
She’s like the girl who cut my hair at Cinderella’s
saying I had the ugliest strands she’d ever seen.
I kept going back for more till Lynette blurted
you don’t need to pay for that kind of shit.
And Lynette says outright
she’s sexy & I’m not. We both know it.
Junior high she called me a mutant. Boobs
like raisins on a fifteen-year old’s wrong.
Mama took me to the doctor & he shook his head.
At least Lynette is a good mother.
When the kid has fever, Lynette won’t go
to work. I’d rather lose my job
than leave a sick baby at daycare.
Guess that’s why I hang with her.
She might call me names, but let somebody else do it,
she’d scratch their eyes out. At the Sonic,
some boy from Crossville leaned in the window,
drop the fat chick & let’s go driving.
She clawed his left cheek & screeched away,
tray still on the car, cokes & fries flying.
Son of a bitch thinks he can dump on you and have
a good time with me. Stupid bastard.
I thought Lynette would always be the one to leave.
Good looking. Smart. She never let anybody
walk on her, or me, though she did
what Cochran girls do after getting their
driver’s license. She got knocked up.
Wouldn’t tell a soul who the father was.
We all thought it was Sonny Cruz.
He went to Iraq in August & emailed Lynette every day.
Like they were junk, she’d hit delete.
He started writing letters she stacked on her dresser—
unopened. Keeping in touch with soldiers
is talking to the dead. Sonny could come back,
I say. Lots of boys make it. Lynette turns away
he might, but he won’t be the Sonny I knew.
After homecoming she carries his letters out to the grill.
They catch on the third match.
Every last word.
PBW (DVD). Ed. Richard Freeman. (December 2015)
The Pond Heron
The dead don't write
but my cousin's letter arrives three days
after he's blown away by some kid
in his own platoon.
Maybe another Georgia boy
who's never been so far from home
so scared he shoots at anything
moving in shadows.
The letter feels light
for my cousin's voice.
He speaks of sheer petals rising
out of muddy fields
spreading before the sun.
Of a copper heron in shallow water
who dips his black-tipped beak
to spear his prey.
King Log 7.1 (Spring 2004).
The first thing I had of Winston Walker
is that Saturday afternoon he shot me
in the eye. BB the size of a mockingbird
iris and about as yellow. Arm draped
over the fence, I watched him walking
toward me. Cock. Pop.
Wasps nested. Screams covered me.
Ice cubes froze the sting blue. Weeks later
my sight, sharp as ever. But the pasty scar tissue
turned my head down, hid the eye behind
cloud cover. No meteor showers
visible. Just an ugly white
glob Winston Walker called an accident
no doctor could erase till I was sixteen
and had moved to Atlanta. He scraped clouds
off blue iris—ashen crater in its place.
When I raised my lid, the sky appeared.
After thirty years Winston Walker telephoned.
Honest to God, I just wanted to scare you.
Said he dreamed I shot him full
of Adriamycin exploding under his skin
infrared starbursts burning every breathing cell.
Then, in November, I expected him at New Hope
to be cremated, ashes scattered where he hunted
whitetail deer. In a simple casket he
was lowered near his mother as shadows
passed through us.