Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Victimology poem by Christal Ann Rice Cooper "48 WHYs From 48 SHEs"

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48 WHYs From 48 SHEs
by Christal Ann Rice Cooper

They all came to the West only to be scattered North, South, and East

of Washington State         

where each smelled the dogwood trees, hand picked the fruit from the cherry and apple trees, relishing the sweetness on her tongue.

picked fruit from the blueberry and strawberry bushes, staining her hands the color of blue veins

and red shed blood

pulsing like the waters of the Green River’s veins stretching 65 miles from Auburn all the way to Seattle where it empties itself in the Elliot Bay,

its green blood pumping to the very streets they walked,
until she walked no more, her blood crying out louder than Abel’s

rising to the Cascade Mountains

her birdsong cry a sad bellow to God’s ears.  Does God listen?  Does God Listen?  Does God Listen? 

She was dreaming, dreaming, dreaming
then fleeing, fleeing, fleeing

pressured by boyfriends to walk those streets;

tried her damnedest to quit drugs but she didn’t have enough will power –

she had the will power to call back home to let them know she was okay, but she wasn’t okay;

she was the 13-to-17-years-old innocent thrown into the green tornado she was not equipped to escape from.  

The police told her to get off those streets, go back home, finish high school, you never know who will be in those cars you get into.

The green hornet’s nest, The green hornet’s nest, The green hornet’s nest
Buzzing, Buzzing, Buzzing, 

But she was blinded by his son’s toys on his dashboard;
his voice soft and tenderly, soft and tenderly, soft and tenderly

like she remembered in church singing, singing, singing

her only sin was being too trusting, too vulnerable, too gullible.  

She had children of her own, children having children
She had nieces and nephews –
She had a heart for kids – even though she was just a kid herself

She was not a prostitute
She was a prostitute
She was at the wrong place at the wrong time

She believed in God,
She didn’t believe in God
She wanted to believe in something that was better than

now, now, now
when, when, when

he drives to her street step and they see a Bible
She’s not afraid,  even Abraham and Moses liked to have sex.

She had luggage no matter how small –
even if it was only her panties and bra she was wearing at the time,
even if it was her last cigarette with cheap red lipstick around its pure white stem.  Makes me think of a flower kissed by Jesus Christ’s lips dripping that pure red blood that would wash all filth away
turning her into a pure cigarette white
the smoke she inhaled was the only incense she could afford

And yet the richness of each life was savagely taken from her, her, her

The police, the community, the friends, and the family crying out each name the sweetest name I know, the sweetest name I know, the sweetest name I know . . .

Just saying her name again, again, again fills my every longing every step I go, every step I go, every step I go

I wish I could count back her steps.  I have this poetic fantasy that I’m some kind of superhero poet with my own cape and I can go back in time when she was still breathing and I walk with her in that moment when I whisper her name and a warning not to get into his vehicle.  I want to give her money, I want to tell her everything is going to be okay,  that I will be her friend.  I will try to convince her to not walk those streets but if she insists I will convince her to let me be her companion and I will tell her which seven vehicles not to get into.  And just when he pulls up – I will steer her away and guide her back

to her family if they care about her;  or to her hotel or to where I know it is safe where she can rest and eat a good meal.  I would buy her new clothes to keep her warm from the rain, sleet, or snow
I’d try to convince her to be a poet or I’d pay her to let me get to know her as a friend so I could write a persona poem just for her

about her, her life, her future where all of her dreams come true

I would be her poet laureate –  
I would be her teacher 

I would convince Giselle Lovvorn to watch The Outsiders and tell her that she is Ponyboy and I am her English teacher and instead of reading Gone With The Wind we’d read her favorite novel The Thorn Birds.

But a true poet accepts reality of those precious 48 Thorn Birds impaling themselves against the blade of death  
the thorn going deeper, deeper, deeper into her very core – until each one cried out her own song – her own bellow

now Debra Lynne Bonner’s hand breaking those chains in order to dance loud enough for Detective Reichaerd to see.

The same song that Marcia Faye Chapman and Cynthia Jean Hinds danced loud enough for the treasure hunter to see the two mannequins – one the color of onyx the other the color of ivory; only to soon realize she wasn’t a mannequin. 

but human life, dancing for the treasure hunter to call the authorities – only to have her feet still chained to the rocks, preventing her from having her last bow, still waiting, waiting, waiting,

for the coroner to remove the triangle shaped stones that he inserted into each


of Debra Lorraine Estes was always full since she was 10 years old, on birth control pills.  Now only sixteen years old a trampled flower  

I imagine Shirley Marie Sherrill read Flowers in the Attack since her stepbrother locked her in the attic and trampled her

like a rose

Opal Cahrmaine Mills’s brother laid underneath the swing at the junior high school they used to attend. He abandoned roses and her favorite doughnuts at the Green River riverbank 

that Mary Sue Bello’s ashes were placed in by her mother as she envisioned her daughter’s favorite song “Summer Nights’ by Glen Campbell:
Every flower touched his cold hand
As he slowly walked by
Weeping willows would cry for joy, joy

just like Denis Darcel Bush did so many times with her epileptic seizures only to have her skull split in two and placed in two places more than 200 miles apart

still the brain waves from two parts of the same skull continue to thrive, thrive, thrive

like a butterfly bitter to the world’s evil and fragile to the children Delise Louise Plager tried to make happy.  I would love to go back in time to the moment she walked out that door to go pick up the Halloween costume she was never able to find . . .   

No one could ever find any malicious bones in Alma Ann Smith’s body nor could they find any change in her pockets  – because she would give away her last penny to those in need, in need, in need,

After being gang raped at the age of 13, Keli Kay McGinness had the courage to turn to poetry for therapy:

Looking back through the pages of yesterday
   All the childhood dreams that drifted away
Even the box of crayons on the shelf
Reflect bits and pieces of myself . . .

But I know now in my heart and mind
I had to leave it all behind
And as a tear comes slowly to my eye,
I stop and ask myself

Why? Why? Why?

wasn’t Terry Rene Milligan able to go to Yale and major in computer science?       Why was seven month pregnant Mary Bridget Meehan not able to deliver her baby to full term?       Why was Mary Bridget Meehan so funny but in constant pain?        Why was Patricia Yellow Robe not able to take her nieces and nephews for ice cream?       Why did Gail Lynn Matthews’ last artwork have to be her own fingerprint on her flesh?       Why can’t Andrea M Childers be dancing on Broadway?       Why do we have to wonder if Cheryl Lee Wims cried out or not?       Why did Patricia Michelle Barczak’s dream of baking wedding cakes not come into fruition?       Why did one girl have to die? 

Why do I even have to ask Why?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

#8 Backstory of the Poem "June Fairchild Isn't Dead" by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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***This is the eighth in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.   All of the BACKSTORY OF THE POEM series links are posted at the end of this piece. 

Backstory of the Poem
“June Fairchild
Isn’t Dead”
by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?  I met June Fairchild less than a year before she died on Feb. 17th, 2015. My husband and I, then living in downtown Los Angeles, were at lunch. We were seated next to June at the Nickel Diner, the iconic DTLA eatery on Main St.
I picked up my phone to check my messages - a photo I’d shot of my husband was the screen saver. June saw it, and struck up a conversation. She needed headshots, she said. She was “making a comeback.”
At first I had no idea who she was, although of course I’d seen “Up In Smoke,” back in the day. The down and out woman sitting next to me bore no resemblance to the sparkling girl on the screen. It was only when Kristen, the
diner’s owner, recognized June and came up to her for an autograph, that I knew who she was.
Before we left the diner, June asked me for my card. She wanted to hire me to shoot her new headshots. When I couldn’t find one, I told June if she gave me her phone number, I would give her a call. She wrote it down in red pen on a napkin, and told me to call her “in a month or so,” when she “had it more together.”

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  I began the poem where I begin (and end) almost all my poems, at my desktop Mac computer, in my studio workspace. Big desk. Big computer. Big screen. My workspace is ordered but to the casual eye, it looks rather chaotic. Stacks of unread books, copious post-it notes. The ever-present gardenia candle. Plenty of French Roast coffee.

What month and year did you start writing this poem?  Howmany drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)      I began writing “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead” on April 22nd of 2015.  “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead” went through 6 separate drafts, as well as several pages of notes and research. I write only on the computer, so there are no drafts with pen markings. The final poem was completed on July 20th, 2015.

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version?  And can you share them with us?  “June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she is asking a psychic if she’ll have a kid, a come-back.”
“June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she’s being raped inside her cardboard box on 5th and Wall.”
“June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she’s mugging again, her ravaged face an Ajax-snorting grin.”
“June Fairchild isn’t really dead, she’s sitting by the phone, waiting for me to call her.
And I will. I will.”

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?  Compassion. We see homeless, defeated people on the street, and give them wide berth. Cross the street to avoid them. We forget that each of them has a story to tell, that each of them, was once some mother’s child.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?  June Fairchild asked me to call her but I never did. I kept that napkin pinned to my bulletin board, a reminder. But I didn’t call. I told myself a homeless woman would have no need for headshots. I didn’t want to get involved in her tragedy.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?  It was first published in CLEAVER Magazine in June of 2016.
It is also published in my latest collection, ENTER HERE, (KYSO Flash Press, 2017).
It was also published in SERVING HOUSE JOURNAL in 2017.

Anything you would like to add?  When I read this poem at Library Girl, here in L.A., a woman came up afterward and told me that she had been a friend of June’s, and that she thought June would have loved the poem, that it “told her story with kindness.”
“June Fairchild Isn’t Dead” is about seizing the moment. It’s about compassion. I often wonder what would have happened if I had made that call…


she’s planning a comeback.
she’s snorting Ajax for the camera.
she’s landing a role on “I Spy.”
she’s writing her number on a napkin and
handing it to me at King Eddy’s Saloon.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s just been voted Mardi Gras Girl at Aviation High.
she’s acting in a movie with Roger Vadim.
she’s gyrating at Gazarri’s, doing the Watusi with Sam The Sham.
she’s mainlining heroin in a cardboard box.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
I saw her tying one on at King Eddy’s Saloon.
she’s making “Drive, He Said,” with Jack Nicholson.
she’s selling the Daily News in front of the courthouse.
she’s snorting Ajax for the camera.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s relapsing in front of the Alexandria Hotel.
she’s working as a taxi dancer, making $200 a shift.
I saw her vamping with Hefner, frugging on YouTube.
she’s naming Danny Hutton’s band 3 Dog Night.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s living at the Roslyn SRO on Main.
she’s giving up her daughter to her ex.
she’s snorting Ajax for the camera.
she’s planning a comeback, needs new headshots.
June Fairchild isn’t dead
she’s Up In Smoke, getting clean.
she’s sitting by the phone.
she’s falling asleep in Laurel Canyon with a lit cigarette in her hand,
waiting for me to call.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), Enter Here (2017), and Junkie Wife (March, 2018). Find Alexis’ work in Best American Poetry 2016, Rattle, Verse Daily, Slipstream, Plume, Nashville Review, Diode, Glass, Tinderbox, Hobart, Pirene’s Fountain, The MacGuffin, Anomaly, Public Pool, Cleaver, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. Her photos are published worldwide, including the covers of Nerve Cowboy, Heyday, Witness, and The Chiron Review. Since first submitting her poems for publication in late 2012, Alexis has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. She lives in Los Angeles.

001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”