Verna Austen, Safe

Verna Austen

My water color paints
and colored pencils
tucked safe in my grey sweater
with the book about Mr. Vincent
under the bed where I sleep
at Granny’s house
jars of still warm put-up line the pantry shelves
like rows of teeth

I draw Granny’s face
the deep lines like a treasure map
her bobby-pinned curls wound tight on her head
her eyes say: I am a mountain, try and move me

Mama bends her shoulders down
like she already lost
puffs again on her cigarette
the burnt end lit up orange like a firefly

what happened
what happened
Granny and Mama
at the kitchen table
with a box of beer
and a full up ashtray between them

Mama lost her job and
couldn’t figure the computers at the library to look for another one and
it was too hard and
what can she do anyway and
might as well close my eyes
but for the girl

I lie in the hallway
pretending not to listen
and paint the old barn
with its wood peeling away
like old dreams

Author’s Comments: Many of my stories and poems start off with ‘what if.’ What if someone loses their home and has no job and no support system. Luckily the family in Safe have each other. But many people have no one. What happens then?

Bio: Verna Austen’s poems and short stories have appeared in The Dead Mule, Flying Island, The Minnetonka Review and others. In 2005 she obtained her MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University.


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