“Some Degree of Shameful Relief” by M. Jeanne Skvarla

M. Jeanne Skvarla


It should not have been as hilarious as it was
when the pallbearers almost dropped you;
I just kept thinking thank God the unbearable
bellyache is over. Your graffiti bloodsplatter
pattern suggested a .357 to the mouth;
we confirmed this with our mops and sponges.
I put my finger in the hole in the wall
where the bullet passed through,
having passed through you first.
I imagine it’s still in orbit somewhere,
and will eventually pierce an alien being
whose body will slap down to earth
some lovely summer Sunday like today.
But your fifteen minutes were fantastic!
They glued your noggin back together
like a bone china crackle finish wig head!
Father Fluchet made an exception for you
(lucky you!) and everyone sobbed and said poor you!
Church ladies bucketlined casseroles in and out
of the house for three whole days, and those who had eaten
your jalapeno lasagna were cooler for the day
than those who had not when the eulogist
praised it at the service. After we buried you,
I took the weed your friends left on your grave
and smoked it out on Thunderbird dam.
And there, amid the grackles and bass boats,
I tried like heck to believe in the enormous, people-eating
freshwater octopus that some say roams
these dirty waters. But what I decided instead
was that some people just never really do
learn how to swim.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012


M. Jeanne Skvarla: “A good poem reminds me of my humanity, and leaves me unsure of whether I should break into laughter or tears. Mostly, I figure, we are all just out here living our lives as best as we can. And then maybe something suddenly happens to remind us that we could do just a little bit better. Or try a little harder. Or to just be thankful. Or to stop everything for a minute. And something awakens, even if it’s just for a moment. A good poem makes me feel those mummies stir within.”

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