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Ellen- Wallowing in the mire

"Jesus Christ, we can never tell your mother," he seethed into her ear. Or anyone else ever, he thought. No one can ever know this. He had just been promoted to supervisor in his town job. No. He sure wasn't going to let his newly delinquent daughter with her poofed-up hair and frosted lipstick—his obvious tart of a daughter—ruin him. "And your bastard friends better keep their mouths shut too. And this time, you better find new ones because those people are no longer your friends. I will kill all of you little shits. Kill you all and they won't find the goddamn bodies. Do. You. Understand. Me?"
Ellen nodded, cowering herself away from him, putting her forearms over her ears. She didn’t want to hear anymore. She didn't believe her father would kill anyone, but she wasn't entirely sure she was right about that either. What her father really wanted to do was slap her upside the head, three good whacks for some common sense, but he left the room instead and those were the last words Ellen heard spoken that long, long night, except for the ones in her head. Mostly just herself and her friends. But a police officer too. Just in case.

That morning had started off in the way of the new normal. The overwhelming smell of the bacon and its thick grease, the eggs frying in the pan all hitting her before her mother's voice calling out to her from in front of the kitchen stove. C'mon, Ellen. But today, her mother had added, If you don't get up now, you won't have time to get yourself all dolled up in that new outfit of yours. I packed your school bag and it is waiting by the door. Ellen had snapped her eyes open in sudden irritation and the first thing she seen through the bedroom doorway, like every morning lately, was her ugly mother cooking up some more fat to add to her already hulking body.Ellen was so sick of looking at her mother, so sick of hearing her voice, so sick of her new stupid glasses that took up her full face and her new man haircut. Combined with the long muumuus of the brightest yellows and greens and oranges that her mother has taken to wearing the last year or so, Ellen hasn’t brought any of her friends home after school now for ages, not that she could bring anyone home if she wanted to.
Ellen is five weeks into a six month grounding and the first part of her punishment had been to switch rooms with her older brother, 23, definitely too old to be living at home and flunking out of the community college, but thankful colleges didn't call home to your parents and that sneaky, conniving little sisters could be bought off easily with a few six-packs of beer and twenty dollars a month. Ellen used to have the bedroom at the back of the hallway. Her brother had always coveted the space, but was told no by his parents time after time. There once had been three girls in there and girls needed their privacy being the reasons. But Ellen had no privacy now that she was stuck in the tiny bedroom right off the kitchen. Her father had even taken the door off of the hinges and stored it under lock and key in his garage. Ellen hadn't been able to fit all of her stuff in room, but her parents helped her by taking things away. As another part of her punishment they threw out all of her records and nail polishes, and her mother had sifted through her clothing, taking away anything that was the Devil's colours, black and red, so there went her new KISS t-shirt, with her mother muttering, So cheap, as she tossed it into a garbage bag. Ellen doesn’t remember her parents ever taking her to church, so she hadn’t really understand the Devil talk, and cheap is something she certainly isn’t. Sure, she has kissed two boys and maybe loved a few more, but she wasn't like a lot of the girls at the high school. She was pretty sure she didn’t want any boy to touch her boobs, let alone anywhere else yet, which was probably the biggest reason her few boyfriends had broken up with her. The final part of her punishment was to find new friends and no boyfriends. Five weeks ago, Ellen had been caught sitting in a circle with three of her friends in the backyard, Kenny's transistor radio and one of her brother's gifts of beer in the middle, when her parents should have been at a dance in Brantford, not suddenly home.
"Get your little asses out of here," her father had yelled at her friends. "Get the hell out of here now before I kill you. You disgusting little shits. Sheila, you stay here. I will drive you home." Clearly he thought the boys to be the providers of the alcohol and that they had unclean intentions for two innocent girls.
You’re so dead, her mother had told her, while her father drove her friend home, standing over the laundry room sink and scrubbing the blood off the back seat of her dress.

After only a week into her grounding, her mother offered Ellen one of her ‘secrets’. No later than 4:30, she told her daughter. And Ellen took it, even though she knew it would be lorded over her. It especially had been over the last few days because last Thursday Ellen, losing track of time, had come walking in the door at five minutes to five and there was her father sitting at the kitchen table, jumping his face overtop of his evening newspaper. "What the hell is going on? Why aren't you already here? Mother?"
And her mother had frowned large at her and said, You don't have an A&P bag. They didn't have those olives? I figured as much. I haven't seen any the last two trips. You can keep the money. Have a cafeteria lunch tomorrow. After all, it's Friday. And there was her father already lost back to the paper, when Ellen glanced over at him.
Her mother never ended up giving her lunch money for the next day. And yesterday, when they were towards the end of their supper, her mother had suddenly snapped her fingers. “Oh, Ellen. I almost forgot. I picked up that outfit you wanted when I was downtown today. I put it through the wash. When you are done eating, you can put it in the dryer so it is ready for you to wear in the morning.” Ellen had cried true tears of horror when she saw what was in the washing machine. Her mother was just like that. Mean. Ellen just knew she would never be this unkind in her entire life, but even still, she had glared at her mother's back and shot her the finger before dragging herself out of bed and gathering up the things she needed to take with her to the bathroom. Including the offending outfit.


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When I was in Ottawa, abandoned and enthralled,
breathing in the
heat waves shimmering off the people
and the cats
and that lazy raccoon that I later named Mondrian in my mind
after I saw my first one,
I did not look for you.
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the magazines, in the new towns,
or down the old roads,
on silver screens, between the book shelves, down on my knees
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I took you for granted.
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I know what I am doing.

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We can keep it there, easy, big, broad like the straight black painted lines, it's nice.
Effortless. Quiet. Assured.
So then, I guess that it is not the word.

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I've been sold, I've been sold, I've been sold, I'm being sold-out
It is torture but
I don't even care
Except to love you more, to love myself more
Those hot-burned tears for you as I rally to save my skin
wind down me and leave behind gold and green
and I don't stop looking
until I look upon you
What on earth...
I've been sold, I've been sold, I've been sold.
I'm being sold-out.

Sunlight filtering through cracks
in the sky
in the walls
fall across your skin
I fingerpaint across your chest
Every word
known to man
and found in you

Fresh snow
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You are here!
I am here!
We are here!
Turn your face upwards
Let falling snow rest on your eyelashes
(dream of me)
Let the white melt on your outstretched tongue

It's spring.
Just one word.

I'd sit across the hall
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