We Couldn’t Pay The Bills Or Trim The Trees Or Grow Into Women (10 Poems On Growing Up)

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Brittani Lepley

Adulthood

bodies like homes,
lived-in, warm like wombs,
welcoming.

packing peanuts, masking tape,
broken glasses, cracking plates

we move

through our twenties
like a band of gypsies,
taking trinkets, leaving
notches on heartposts.

a need to drive by past lives
to check up on porch lights and
paint jobs and loves lost.

the choice to look away
or notice not
white crosses replacing welcome mats.

lovers like strangers,
fading, gone like present,
waning.

crinkled notes, rusting lockets,
paling petals, jinxed jackets,

we keep.

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

6171 hollywood blvd.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I made the bed,
got dressed and lay back on top of it.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I stole flowers
from my neighbors’ front yards and
put them in little glasses around the house.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I lit candles and pruned in the tub.
I’d keep my head underwater as long as i could take it.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I spent my mornings with dogs
named after film stars
and we’d walk around the block to look
at abandoned film stars’ homes,
each dying pretty on beds of brown grass.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I’d cook us chicken and
he’d make a sandwich without looking at me
long enough to notice how cross I was.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I took care of another woman’s
children and loved them for needing me
and loved their mother for neglecting them.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I practiced my lines
in front of the mirror when he left for work
so he wouldn’t know I was trying.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I watched old movies on a new tv.
we’d watch the marx brothers on blueray and
I’d laugh when he laughed.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I sat on the top
of the stairs when I called my mother
to tell her that everything was alright.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I found a family
of stray cats and fed them dog food
on a paper plate at 6pm every night.

at 6171 hollywood blvd we had too many
rooms to furnish and we bought
overripe produce at the dollar store.

at 6171 hollywood blvd someone tried to break in and
I was the one who went downstairs to check.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I learned about clara bow and
soon after dyed my hair.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I entertained werewolves
whom I believed to be my friends.
with mugs of red wine and
loose grips of cigarettes we’d talk about the stars.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I read memoirs about darkness
while I acted out my own version of it.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I lived with a musician who
loved to argue but saved his insults for song lyrics.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I came home late and
he came home later.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I swatted my own hand away from the pantry
until i felt boney enough for my first film role.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I dropped out of school and
used my textbooks as coffee table books.

at 6171 hollywood blvd I posed for photos
I’ve long since burned.

at 6171 hollywood blvd we made movies
on digital cameras that had great beginnings and
unfinished endings.

at 6171 hollywood blvd we slept better in separate beds
even though we had the same dreams.

at 6171 hollywood blvd my landlady hated me
but doted lovingly on him.

at 6171 hollywood blvd we packed our belongings
in his 1991 BMW convertible 11 times.

at 6171 hollywood blvd we left shoe racks and
dust bunnies and screws in the walls.

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

342 Franklin Ave., Lost Angels, CA

ring around the koi pond
pocket full of nosey
flashes, crashes, we all fall down.
with our scratches
we lugged our shells back to
chateau de fleur together.
poor broken baby grand
we’d say, fingering its
sunken keys as we
dragged our heels through the lobby
we fancied ourselves the next
garbos, bows, crawfords.
with nothing to say
and everything to admire.
hit (your mark)
hit (your mark)
hit (your mark)
we were thirsty for trouble,
licking lollypops behind lolita
sunglasses:
how married are you, dear director?
she doesn’t understand you like i do.
do (your) lines
do (your) lines
do (your) lines
we were just getting into character,
and now, we slither home
to our humid apartments
with boyfriends
that no longer wait up for us.
come (to bed)
come (to bed)
come (to bed).

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

Lanewood Road

I was a child
with pebbles in my shoes
and a cape of dirt road dust
just barely settling.
homesick for a place
I had not found.

my new home was not even
the last tenant’s old home.
(I learned as I tore through her life
she left hanging in the closet.)

spanish tiles
above the pilling carpet:
new on old and newer on new.

bed was safe
so in bed I stayed
knitting an idea of an adult
I would not yet meet.

“if you were my daughter, I wouldn’t let you
walk around here at night. it’s not safe, for you.”
I would be nice then, if you were my father, officer.
I thought, pulling on my ball-chain locket,
never sure what to do with my hands.

so I stitched, sewed, and learned to pull strings
to stay safe, to keep them busy.

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

Glencoe Way

the actors don’t feel the same between your sheets
as they seem they would on the screen.
and I never could feel clean
after they would leave.
so i’d take a bath and
write my own scenes.

how tickled I’d be
by the way the leaves tickled me.
they grew through the window
and crawled toward my toes.

how pitiful our cries
as the landscapers outside
brought those trees to their knees
in a senseless demise.

how my roommate, sick with lunacy,
writhed in the bathtub
as I brought skillets of hot water
to ease her miscarriage.

and how it left us too speechless
to fathom a eulogy.

we couldn’t pay the bills
or trim the trees
or grow into women
so we couldn’t keep things
like hot water and shade and baby girls.
nor could we then see the line between
what was her’s and what was mine.

why wasn’t there a warning
etched on the back
of the hollywood sign?

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

Astoria

with limbs and sheets we build a fort.
a maroon light licks our foreheads
as we struggle to arrange our bodies inside;
on the center of the mattress,
in the middle of your bedroom,
on the second floor of a building,
in the beginning of astoria.

astoria, astoria, astoria.

we’ll write a story:
a bird and a prince
both rootless yet heavy.
he will search for india
and anonymity,
she will search for a shoulder
to perch on
and continuity.

and the sheet will become a roof
that holds up a ceiling
of a house in a town
where these two
characters live.

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

Runyon Canyon

I’d dance around the perimeter of the canyons
only to slide into the pits of them.

with dirt packed
atop my nail beds
I’d try to find my way up.

during the day i’d wear the sun like a sweater
and bake peacefully beneath it.

when my light was eaten by the ocean,
my warmth went too.
leaving me spineless and shivering
while I waited for the coyotes
to spill around the lips of my captor canyon.

slinks of grey took turns
throwing their noses to the sunless sky,
bleeding hearty bellows that echoed
around me.

I felt slight in the shadow of their confidence.
they didn’t have to wait for the clouds to sink
and water the dirt before they could climb it.

up and down they went,
looking for a meal more appealing than me.
up and down they went
judging my worth,
almost suspicious
of my obvious weakness.

I was not a trap.
I was trapped.
even the coyotes couldn’t fathom
how helpless I appeared to be.

a group of heavy-pawed voles would spare me
and when the sky rewelcomed the sun
the clouds licked the dirt long enough
for me to grasp it.

I would climb out of the pit of those canyons
and with brown knees and ripped palms
I would dance around the perimeters
only to slide into the pit of them.

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

For The Sake of a Photo By The Lake

I wanted you to take me up the coast.
You promised we’d lick snow in Mammoth.
And then it was summer and I was cross.
“People go to Big Bear in the summer”
you assured me.

I wanted to be people who go,
who know the difference
between Californian seasons
and mistake their ski goggles for snorkel masks.

I dug my nail into the cracked leather dashboard
until you noticed.
“This is a 1987!”

We ascended in silence until silence became awe.
The mountains swallowed us too easily.
We didn’t fight back and
there was no one there to save us,
because people don’t go to Big Bear in the summer.

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

The Greenhouse

will you show me
how to make flowers
from seeds?

how to unearth
your happiness and
water it for you?

how to be water?
how to keep you thirsty?
how to reflect light
while saving warmth,

for me?

how to build a home
to live in,
to make life in?

how to keep you–in it?
how to let you be?

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

The Same Address

do you remember that one time when
we existed without each other?

I am naked
you are half-dressed and
we are playing see-saw

when I was younger I decided I was against
pollack but now I think I like him
I am lying on my back
you are lying to my face
we are playing see-saw

when we are older can we
have the same address?
I am pleading
you are warning
we are playing see-saw. TC mark

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