tana jean welch

Jesus Wet the Bed Like You

So your father interrupted your mother’s plan

to become a dowager

when he sold the house in secret,

gathered his bones and nails and sailed

out of town via the drawbridge exit.

A series of relocations fell onto your mother’s brow—

seaport to seaport, aunt to uncle—

and she was forced to battle

your sudden insecurity with a rubber bed sheet

and a sweet singing budgerigar.

You named the bird after your father

and never once thought

about how your mother felt

when the signalman’s light moved

from the lighthouse, flooding her bedroom window.

Now, at the bird-father’s funeral, I’m watching you

stand clear-eyed and angry,

and the proper hour has come

to ask you to consider the shifting nature of gloom,

to think of all the good that can come from an enema—

and quarantine—so please remember,

next time it hurts, the skin

of an orange must be peeled to reach

the pulp—and when you need me,

I’ll be there to cradle your sad, but handsome testicles.

The Four Jean Maries

Jean Marie Lavender is the granddaughter of her mother’s father,

the man who gave her deep, black coffee eyes, the man who carved

her fresh, Fresno peaches slice by slice with his pocket knife.

Jean Marie Bailey is the daughter of her mother’s first husband,

a thick man the color of onion skin, a man who watched her head,

mouth, and hands like a peregrine falcon carrying a bomb

in it’s belly. If her grandfather helped her climb the ladder

onto his rough shingled roof to watch the setting sun bloom

into a pink bouquet, this new man loomed over her like a tsunami

wave waiting in the wing while hot oil sparked in her eye.

Oil popping from an everywhere anger, or from the heavy pan

on the stove as Jean Marie bent corn tortillas into taco shells.

All men give their women at least one gift, including this placebo

father who passed down his Vietnam survival skills of lying and quiet

tip-toe. He taught her to fear loud noises and fry food with hatred,

so Jean Marie Glass married a man who resembled a small turtle,

a man who gave her already twice-calibrated heart instruction

on the methods of malt liquor drinking, manipulation,

and the breaking of windows. And because she falsely believed

her grandfather was easily disappointed, Jean Marie stayed

good as long as she could, as long as anything can hold on

to the spirit of another before it dives off the building;

and because her father never knew that, while cooking, then

and forever after, she kept the algae-filled fiberglass pool,

the object of her mother’s suburban desire,

in the back of her mind as a symbol of prison and failure;

and because glass, a silicate substance, is almost always salvageable

once broken—all it takes is glue or fire and a vase becomes a bowl

becomes a cup becomes a mosaic until the last product looks deep

into the white abyss of the morning glory flower and sees

a forgiving ocean filled with sailboats and pelicans—

because of this, Jean Marie Thomas is the wife of Daniel Thomas,

a man as tall as the loblolly pines, a man who kisses her knees

and feeds her soda crackers and knows she is every one and none

of these four Jean Maries. She rubs hot oil on his back and he sees

his wife, like any woman, is only a girl carrying men between her toes.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome billy hughes to La Fovea!billy_hughes.html