The Writing Disorder


New Poetry


by Ashley Shivar

Punk kids in black and white are talking
about urinary tract infections and Final Fantasy
and Dungeons and Dragons and my grandmother
is sitting in front of me attempting to cry—
one small tear rolling down her face.

She is watching the kids and she is silently
acting out and I don’t know why, but maybe
it’s the voices in her head—
the voices that caused my mother
to forbid me being alone with her
until I was old enough to hold my own.

I’ve always wondered what they said
and if they were the ones who told her
to hide the barbeque sauce from last year’s
family reunion under her bed.
If they told her to dream about whales coming
to take her litter of seven babies.
If they told her to stop taking those little blue pills.

Across from the punk kids, there are two ladies
sharing a bowl of wonton soup and one of them
is wearing the same shirt as another lady
at another table—hot pink with orange and blue
and lime green and black lines smeared throughout
the colors cutting through the colors
making their way through the hearts of the colors

The waitress in the back is also crying and a lady
has come in to console her. I think it must be her mother
because she is yelling at this waitress while she is cleaning
the table in front of her and the waitress walks away
from the mother and goes in the kitchen, but her mother
follows her and this is textbook for mother-daughter relationships
in the South. You can even feel heartbreak
while serving orange chicken.

When the waitress comes back out, her face is swollen
as if a bee has stung her cheeks—
         as if the voices are swelling inside her head
         as if they are multiplying to take over.


Every family has a recessive trait that pops
into the DNA every now and then. And we let
them grow up with the herd but secretly wish
they weren’t one of us. Their fur undesirable—
un-useable for commercial purposes—
can’t be altered, dyed to match the others.
And so we let them wander around, sometimes
across county lines and sometimes we don’t
even know where they are and we them that
exploring their own path.

Every family has one, and I’ve always thought
ours was me. My hair curly and unruly—dark
locks of difference. My body larger than most
though proportionate enough to look
a freakish version of everyone else.

But I am not the animal left to find shelter outdoors,
that is my second cousin whose liver, few days ago,
finally gave out. Before he passed
he made peace with his ex-wife and her new husband.
His son, recently released from prison for running
a meth lab. His mother is still living—sister
to my grandfather.

Given the stream of alcoholism and genetic
addictions that flows through the county creek
that binds my family together, I wasn’t surprised
about the meth lab or the liver. I couldn’t even be sad
about the death because I never really grew up
with them. I never crossed into that county line.

That’s my excuse. I can’t speak for the others.
His brother, upon the news that no one had money
to pay for my second cousin’s funeral, said
to just let the county pay for his eternity and place
him in the pauper’s cemetery.

Should I even be surprised about the lack of compassion
for a dead black sheep? I’m surprised we still
have pauper’s cemeteries, and I will go
to see the sheer number of people whose families
have let them fall beneath moss and branches.
I want to look upon the lack of plastic flowers
and wreathes purchased at Wal Mart. I want to stay
with those who never belonged to a herd, because
as much as I claim to hate my family, at least I got the chance
to fight about it.


Most boaters follow the rules of the water
and create slow ripples in a no wake zone,
but others too drunk and under-trained to care
blast through these fragile areas,
pulling the earth into the sound—
threatening to drown family
homes with each passing blast.

Once, our neighbor was sober
but angered enough to run
through our yard to our dock
and begin cursing at a 64-foot charter
boat that had just sped by.
So, the cruiser slammed into reverse
and dipped back towards the dock
so the captain and passengers could scream
threats at our neighbor:
         Things like I’m gonna’ wake your ass
         every time I come through here
         meet me at the marina so I can kick your ass.

And before we knew it and not a moment soon
enough they sped back off.

But only a few minutes later one of the men
appeared across from our dock saying
he was coming for us.

This is how we spent my father’s birthday—
two visits from the police, death threats over
something as simple as the Kelvin property,
when a solid body strikes a liquid surface,
displacement occurs because the surface
cannot break like a limb in a hurricane,
but can only be shaken like a baby
who cries too loudly, whose mother was too young.

And it’s things like this that make me so angry.
That I cannot control the environment around me,

that we can’t keep ourselves safe no matter how hard we try.

Ashley Shivar earned her MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work has appeared in SNReview, Main Channel Voices and The Lettered Olive. She grew up in Eastern North Carolina, and is still hanging around the area.

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