Welcome to TNBBC's 5th edition of Tell Me A Story.
Tell Me a Story is a monthly series that features previously unpublished short stories from debut and Indie authors. The request was simple: Stories can be any format, any genre, and any length. And many amazing writers signed up for the challenge.
This month's story comes from poet, novelist, playwright, and journalist Collin Kelley. He is co-director of the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, sits on the board of Poetry Atlanta and on the advisory council for Georgia Center for the Book. By day, Kelley is the managing editor for Atlanta Intown newspaper. Collin is currently performing last minute edits to the sequel of his debut novel, Conquering Venus, titled Remain in Light.
Collin has submitted a previously unpublished poem for us this month...
My dad at the wheel, my mother,
ulcer inflamed, puked her way across
northern Alabama that summer,
from Huntsville and the rusting rockets
to Tuscumbia, the farthest any of us had been west.
We drove through raw, blistered towns,
like a hundred Sally Mann photos come to life,
the hollow-eyed poor, the rust and dust.
Helen Keller would have wished herself blind.
My parents on each end of a see-saw, up and down,
and me in the middle, a counterbalance.
My mother said more than once, I want to leave,
when the house was on edge in the hush after battle.
In one of those silences, when only a book
was a safe bet, I found poor Helen.
Wondered how she managed happiness
in her turncoat body, how Annie Sullivan’s
urgent fingers slapped against Helen’s young hand
could make three senses seem like five.
At Ivy Green, the Keller’s low slung house,
I thought I came to find Helen, but was looking
for Annie, the surrogate mother
who rescued Helen from her lock box.
Who suffered the sadistic mind-games, thrown
forks and eggs, lost a tooth for her trouble,
who resolved to stay until water became water.
Half blind herself, her thick glasses like mine,
learning Braille just in case.
Her brother dead in an orphanage she barely
managed to escape. She didn’t want to leave
him either, his apparition showed her the door.
Alabama in 1881 must have been a fresh hell,
Annie’s Yankee hostility a constant reminder
of who had won the War of Northern Aggression.
The Kellers giving in to Helen’s every whim,
was a new battleground, yet Annie never yielded.
The high, hot southern sun scorching her corneas
even after the surgeries, books held so close
her eyelashes rustled the pages, hungry
to absorb every visible word, to ingrain them
in case she woke up in permanent darkness.
Going back to Boston was never an option.
My mother’s insides finally settled,
she stared out the window of Ivy Green,
looking into some middle distance,
beyond my father into the next life
of no children, no responsibilities,
a clean slate to begin again.
I picked up Helen’s Braille watch,
the one lost in NYC and returned by a stranger,
because who else would it belong to but her,
as if no one else in the world was blind.
I wondered where Annie’s watch was now,
the one I’m sure she picked up a million times
and said, I want to leave, get off this see-saw.
Could have. Did not.
I want to thank Collin for participating in TNBBC's Tell Me a Story. If you like what you've read, please support Collin by checking out his website and books. Help spread the word by sharing this post through your blog, tumblr page, twitter and facebook accounts. Every link counts! And be sure to check back with us next month for the next installment....