Memory Collector

June 2019
By Kelly Running

Old pictures,
a generation of tintypes and end-of-nineteenth-century portraits
I’m the family curator—
editing the memories
selecting the photographs to keep
(my generation now Sharpie-inked with first and surnames)
on the back of portraits, a contribution
to the time-capsule-snippets of
the past,
gifted to the future.
Enlightenment came
when I inherited the steamer trunk and the house and all the Portland
pioneer family memories and trinkets,
the estate,
and I hold my breath, hoping, that
there’s scribbled history, waiting, as the old frame spits out
a vintage photograph.
On the front, fashions of the late 1800s
women with hourglass shapes held fast by corsets
men with handlebar moustaches and proud eyes
and I remember the curator before me
memory collector
my mother
who passed this torch
to me.

Saturday Visitation

By Kelly Running

The line begins to form
at the buzz of the prison fence door.
We march behind the razor wire,
and wary many-timers.
Children play their newfound game of
catch me if you can
as they slide along the metal chairs.
Grandpas and Grandmas,
thumbs knarred like aged alder trees,
backs hunched over their knees,
wait for a visit.
Change in Ziploc bags
resembling Easter egg trinkets
bypass the metal detectors
while another line forms.
My underwire bra sounds the alarm,
mimicking a fire drill,
and I'm patted down as visitors watch-
an audience to the crime of motherhood.
Chairs and tables are one
like the union between couples in better days,
bolted to the floor.
We play cards
to pass the time,
but conversation stales and
the guard approaches-
it's time to leave
because others are waiting.
Back again through the razor wire,
the sharp clank of the prison door
is final,
an exclamation point
until I visit my son again
on Saturday.

Published in Voicecatcher: a journal of women's voices & visions, winter 2013

Jailhouse Call

By Kelly Running

The automated call from the jailhouse
coaxes me to answer, but
I disconnect from
the Russian roulette
of your life.

Press 'one' if you want to detox,
'two' for a stint in rehab,
'three' for the methadone that harbors a false sense of betterment,
'four' for the black-tar street heroin,
'five' for jail's gritty isolation.

A dealer hovers like a vulture
waiting for you, Road Kill,
my son,
and he will pick at your flesh
while you hold the dirty needle to your veins.

Sleeping tonight under a bridge,
will you remember how I used to rock you
as a baby,
singing a sweet melody of "Mockingbird"
to soothe your anxious cries?

Published in Voicecatcher: a journal of women's voices & visions, spring 2013