Honest Sonnets after Diane Suess by Nicole Farmer Toddler I was raised in a well. Scratchy wool. That smelly tub of a rectangle, butt end of the VW bug where I got to stand and bounce in my sandy feet jammies, no car seat, no belts, just free bumping along from New York City to Vermont over every pothole or icy lump, nausea overtaking until I slumped into a feline coil, finger sucking my way to slumber. World whizzing backwards, mom smoking a joint, dad in a trench coat sister biting and pinching me in secretive battle, freezing blizzard leaving me dizzy and excited for more. No wonder every unexpected joy has taken me longer to grasp, maturity late to appear. Backwards I arrive perfectly in the rear. Scribe I am a nine-year-old writing secret messages on my mouth with my thumb nail. Staring straight ahead at my mom, anger like steam blowing out my ears, as I bury her with insults written in letters that tickle my lips and calm my rage. Bowie the beagle sneaks out the back door to follow the scent of a bunny, the tracing of my finger now spelling out words of love for my horse, my special tree, my anywhere else but here, away from the yelling, the shit eating grin from my goodie-two-shoes never get caught sister. In trouble again. Caught. I can escape to my hidden dialogue, stories starring me, the galloping girl who flies high and never falls, no wings needed. Invincible and innocent, really, yeah really. Divorce My teenage sister and I in the moonlight dancing under the giant pecan tree in the back yard high on mushrooms for the first time, picked from cow dung in the fields outside Carencro, Louisiana, and dipped in honey - getting stoned with dad, celebrating the end of the marriage, we giggle uncontrollably, free from the foursome, and happy in the knowledge that they won’t unite again, ever, because six separations are enough, and it's Done! and we're soaring, spiraling across the yard with giant bobble heads, spreading our seagull wings just like our free sailing mom. Sometimes the end of shared misery is celebration - better than any birthday party with paper hats. Birthday Sweet sixteen under a giant moonlit crucifix mounted in the crater of a dormant volcano filled with tin cans somewhere close to Antigua, Guatemala -no party dress, no dance, no teenage boys hugging the walls, cigarettes hanging from hungry mouths - I'm crawling on all fours in the mud and rain, laughing with Lorenzo the Adventurer, my wheeler-dealer smuggler dad, while elevated Jesus looks down on us with golden tears, blood dripping from his thorny crown and open wounds, as we roll out our sleeping bags: Pop's puking his guts out all night in penance for eating fruit. Not just a father-daughter touristy trip this was the research phase for the drug deal. Daring What constitutes a memory? Dad now gone I simply remember what I remember true or not there were only the two of us left at home: seeing him emerge from the bedroom in full priest habit as Padre Lorenzo, devout traveler between Catholic Louisiana and Catholic Columbia, doing God's work with a friendly smile - flamboyant Spanish and a love of Central America, its people, its culture. You would never guess he had plastic bags of sugar duct taped under his pants - practice run for the big smuggle day - me wondering if this was real or just another deal. Now I ponder his desperation and fear of failure - invisibility was something he dreaded more than death. Conspirators I was his eyes, his judge, his confidante: Did his pants catch when he walked, did he look convincingly chubby? Was his belly believable? Did he waddle like a worshiper who loved to eat? - and all I could think about was how his white plastic collar contrasted with the black linen shirt, how shiny his black shoes shone, how much cocaine would be duct taped to his body, and what they would do to him if they caught him, would I ever see him again, would I be allowed to visit him in the Pen? But this was 1979 and he sailed through customs like a charm- shaking hands, smiling, joking, playing the priest was a role that far surpassed his Broadway debut.
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Nicole Farmer is a writer and reading tutor living in Asheville, NC. Her poems have been published in The Closed Eye Open, The Amistad, Quillkeepers Press, Capsule Stories, Haunted Waters Press, Sheepshead Review, Roadrunner Review, Wild Roof Journal, Bacopa Literary Review, Great Smokies Review, Kakalak Review, 86 Logic, Wingless Dreamer, Inlandia Review, In Parentheses, and others. Nicole was awarded the First Prize in Prose Poetry from the Bacopa Literary Review in 2020 and has just finished her first chapbook entitled ‘Wet Underbelly Wind’. Way back in the 90’s she graduated from The Juilliard School of Drama. You can find her dancing barefoot in her driveway on the full moon at midnight.