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3 Poems by Romaine Washington

…gargoyles and goddesses

mom’s perm potion to magically take my hair from afro crown to rapunzel flow was a smoldering disaster that summer. I shed from shoulder-length to two tiny perpendicular pigtails on either side of my toothless seven-year-old smiling brown face. to not feel so alone, I cut the hair off all my dolls, not in some styled pageboy coif, these perfect plastics were butchered in a blond don king heap of who cares.

when school started i was greeted with laughter, with grunts of disgust, and christened ugly. at recess i sat on the bench under the canopy with the girl taller than anyone in our class and the girl rounder than anyone in our class. and i watched the desired-girls giggle and run and whisper to one another looking our way - looking at the boys. looking – i decided that I too wanted to play. when I joined in, girls ran behind me, and the boys ran around me, as though I was a castle wall, as though my head was a gargoyle perched, ready to devour them with my toothless roaring laugh. the boys would run away and i became a safe place.

girls with long hair scampered, squealing to hide behind me as the boys ran towards them, i would growl as if i truly was a bronze gargoyle come to life. and the boys ran away in fear of being touched by someone unprettied. i’d raise my arms high and curl my fingers as though I had claws, they’d run when I gave my toothless dragon growl, they’d run as though i had daggers or a gun.

and i enlisted the help of the too-tall girl and the too-round girl on our parochial school ground we became the protectors – the safe place for all that is good and pure from all that is fierce and dangerous. and we belonged, were a necessary force between good and evil, invincible we three christened ourselves Artemis, Athena, and Hestia – untouchable.

*Previously published in “Pandemic Summer: Prose and Poetry from Inlandia Writers at Home”

Will be published in my upcoming book of poetry Purgatory Has an Address – release date April 15.


Incident in Blue

Dedicated to Becky and Karen

“Democracy must begin at home, and its home is the neighborly community”.

Eric Klinenberg

maybe the dog pissed on the carpet one too many times that morning

when the neighbor saw my son in the hot tub

may as well clean both up

she called the police

as my son’s head leaned back on his shoulders

eyes closed chest expanding in the water

the sun is god and he is god’s well-baked son

eyes closed steeping like a soaked chamomile tea bag

ready for dreams

eyes open

two police stiffly stand over him

get out of the jacuzzi, sir

he is yanked into a nightmare

the sun shifts to shadows on the pavement

my bare-chest barefoot wallet-less son

stepped out calmly

made sure not to give the allusion of a weapon

do nothing to make them nervous

We had a complaint from the complex

about a vagrant in the jacuzzi

… and the sun is yellow dog-piss raining on him

voice clear - but not too firm

I live here - I can take you to my condo

My son’s hazel eyes scan neighbors’ windows

police are relaxed – and satisfied

on the phone

i hear rage shaking in his voice

i’m no punk - in no mood- to see you

i look like mr. clean- but I’m no punk…

his mind paces

a neighbor called – the police –

i gotta calm down… …

i can feel his tears punching holes in walls

i’m no punk… had to stay calm…

the police— i gotta calm down

but not today

*Will be published in my upcoming book of poetry: “Purgatory Has an Address” release date, April 15.


The Scent of Patchouli

Nana Romaine and i relax in a patchouli incense thread of smoke

floating through our strands of hair

braided with fingers and time

with nana there is always time

a two-mile afternoon stroll

to barbara ann’s sunshine colored bakery

coming home warm like oven heavy with sleep

nap wakes to front porch

evenings aproned

by the silk scent of yellow and pink rose bushes

flush petal blush

summer evening sky nana time

in the cool-almost-dew we snap green beans

staccato pops in pots

steam rising from giddy water

nana and i eat what we want when we want

handswashed-tableset-headbowed--amen-we eat

late night pancakes we eat

fried-chicken mashed-potato mornings

we eat midday deviled egged picnics we eat



time is the flame on nana’s stove

hours and days melt into obsession

as we unbox time

in 1,000-piece puzzles / memorizing edges / intricate rose gardens

blue & white & blue & white & blue & white sky pieces that almost-fit-but-not-quite

a collage of thimbles dali’s melting clocks

melting time into a stream

where memory stretches time

weaves itself in and out of synapses - through decades

as though nana was there when i was born

pouring soft questions

into my eyes

*Previously published in “Cholla Needles 39” under the title of “Time Transfusion” and will be published in my upcoming book, “Purgatory Has an Address."


Romaine Washington, M.Ed. is the author Purgatory Has An Address (Bamboo Dart Press, 2021) and Sirens in Her Belly (Jamii Publications, 2015). She has been published in many anthologies including San Bernardino Singing, Lullwater Review, and Cholla Needles. She has presented her work in a wide variety of venues from National Poetry Slam to NPR and KPFK.Washington is a fellow of The Watering Hole, South Carolina and the Inland Area Writing Project at the University of California in Riverside. Washington is active in the local writing community through workshops and readings, the organization Women Who Submit, book festivals and literary events. www.romainewashington.com

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