The Weed

When I was 15
I was the stereotypical rebellious, wannabe cool kid.
I tried to fit in with the skaters and punks
because that was my boyfriends crew
and I skipped school to smoke cigarettes with him around Black Lake.

One day I talked to a girlfriend online
and I said that I hated cheerleaders
and if I had a choice would ‘line them all up and shoot them’.
I had never even fired a gun
but it didn’t matter because her mother just wanted any excuse
to stomp out the weeds in her middle class garden.

The next day a police officer showed up at my house
My mother’s jaw was hanging slack but she still managed to holler,
“What did you do?!”
and even he shook his head
because the likelihood that this 5′ tall, 90lb child
was the next school shooter was asinine.

The principal called next, and told me that I couldn’t return
and I argued with this grown woman who terrified me
because I had never been in trouble before.
I made a mistake, I said.
Sure, I was failing all of my classes because I barely attended them
but I always knew that I was smart enough to make it up.
She told me that I couldn’t succeed in her school
and I didn’t know what that meant.

When I reflect on the school year prior
I remember sitting in the hallway and decorating my locker
instead of going to class.
Or laying on the floor, faking a back injury or concussion
and staff walking right past me
I was invisible.
Everyone knew that my mother was sick
and the truth of it rattled through my mind
day after day as the clock ticked on through first, second and third period.

Nobody said anything when I didn’t show up for class
or walked off school grounds
or loitered in halls or bathrooms.
Teacher’s were praised by parents for the work they did but
nobody tried to offer me a hand.
I never had an adult treat me like I had worth
or a future
Until I received services at an alternative school program.

This is why today I work with children
and volunteer at schools
and often offer care services for free.
You would not believe the number of children
who have hardships at home that are still viewed as
bad, disruptive, weeds
when they just need someone to water them
and treat them like they are just another flower
to help them grow.


It always seems like it’s best to prepare
Like if I could just desensitize myself enough
To the pain of finding her there
absent, dim, grey
Then I could accept a life that isn’t filled
with PG movies, school functions or socks on the floor.
Maybe there is beauty in the next chapters…

But it never works out that way
because when you find them
It’s always a surprise.
It’s always when you are busy thinking about
what to make for Sunday dinner
or when to make that next business move
that the book snaps shut right under your nose.

Oh, and how they say that you can write your own story!
Wouldn’t I write the story where we all come out
present, clear, bright?
I might reside in these pages
but I am captive in this story.
I cling to the present word while
the author pens my fate
and I only hope that as the pages get filled
the genre of my story won’t be




Her face stares unmoving at mine
With lips peeled back manically over yellowed crowns
And wide eyes that leer, unblinking
Like a living doll, appearing entertained at her own damnation
I become unsettled by her preserved appearance

When I run, I can feel her existence on my back
Manicured nails threaten like talons
Reaching, grabbing, pulling me under
and I know that I must take flight

I jump off into the air
Kicking my legs back and fourth,
The way Annabelle taught me to pump the swing higher
until I no longer needed Mother’s push
and my feet kissed the sun

Higher and higher I go
Until the Moon wraps me in white light.
I flap my arms like a baby bird testing out its wings
To slow my descent towards the Earth
but I still fall from the ether like a bat out of hell
The sound of the wind whistles through my ears like a flute
and awakens the butterflies slumber within my gut

Somehow I know that when my toes brush the maidenhair bottom
I will not meet the end in this place
Because when their blank, glass-eyes of judgment fill me with dread
I have always taken flight before
and only here, I soar.




My body must be made of glass

because you stare right through me

Unseen and overlooked

Yet you trust my ethereal presence enough to lean on

When your own body needs comfort


You don’t check to see if my form has cracks anymore

and maybe the fault is mine

For staying shut so long that the foulness couldn’t get out

and now it’s trapped, stagnant


Still I can’t help but wonder if you meant what you said

About being your dearest, true friend

because I can still see you lean in

On the days when the rain washes my film clearer

To broadcast your own reflection back to you.




Her smile turns to the right,
relenting in a misaligned bite,
an eternal sign of poverty for anyone who knows her birthright.

Her nose crooks left;
a poor effort to correct the symmetry,
at best.

Her curly mop is mashed in gel-formed dreadlocks,
a mind of their own,
keeping her in submission with their stubborn headlock.

Her eyes are as grey as the northwest sky,
apathetic and free,
they offer no alibi.

“You are so cold you could turn anyone’s heart to stone!” he spit, the whiskey spilling to the floor.

Medusa, she is-
The girl, the monster-
With so much venom on her tongue that
only the statues will hear her.




Cunning, Baffling and Powerful

When I rolled over at 4AM

I couldn’t feel my heart clattering in my own chest

Like a chain slipping into spokes on first gear.

I didn’t hear my stomach acid gurgling as it slithered towards my throat,

To make room for the bag of rocks that impregnated my gut.

My mouth was not so dry that I dreamed of sinking

Into an Ocean of my own regrets.

My sweat didn’t retreat onto my bedsheets

As if to say, “It’s not me, it’s you”.

I woke before the sun and thought:

This must mean that I am in control.

So I decided to make a drink.

©2020 M.J. Hambly, All Rights Reserved

She Is With Me

When the acoustic strum charges the air
Everyone raises their hands up high
But my trembling fists remain clenched at my sides.
I search the pews with wary eyes for confirmation
But I do not sense Her.

She was with me on the rarest scene
A blanket of white purity covered the Evergreens.
Crystalline flakes fluttered downwards delicately
Kissing the top of my nose with care.
It makes me remember a time filled with childlike fun
When my heart soared when sliding down an icy slope
while Mama held onto me.
It’s as if She dropped the snow to show
How Her love envelopes us all.

She was with me again at a troubled time
A hospital room, a mother leaving too soon.
My fragile heart tried frantically to pick up
its shattered pieces,
before the nurses gazed with pity.
My spirit left my body and watched from the distance
It was there that I noticed my entire family sat beside me
And She whispered that there is beauty even in despair.
I felt Her everyday then after
A woman’s touch for comfort and guidance.

“He’s a good, good Father” they sing in waves
But none of those red letters seem to tell of the way
That Her light shines through the amber leaves
Or how Her crows leave presents when they are pleased.

They call those Pagan that speak to Her
A ‘false God’, they say, worship of demons.
But I think I’ve already been to Hell
And I prefer Her company over those who can’t tell
The way She whispers on this Green Earth.
Or rages across the Waters.
Her grace enchants me under the full Moon
And I know that She is with me.



Photo Credit:
Pamela Matthews

The First City

Sometimes when the sun hits the skyscrapers in a certain hue of gold
My mind reminds me of a time when I lived in my first city.
I traveled the tracks left in dirt from mamas car
Stopping my bike at potholes, in wait for my own green light to say “go”
And the rain did not keep me from traveling uncharted streets
Even when the puddles shook so big the leaves stopped floating.

Into the woods I ventured when the pellets dropped down too fat
Blanketed by the courtesy of Sequoia trees.
The wind howled like flutes through swaying branches
And it was here among the ferns that I perfected my dance.

The long tree roots made staircases
To businesses made of hollowed trunks and stick piles.
The caterpillars were rounded up to learn like school children
While the busy sparrows flitted around like busy executives, hard at work
And newts lazed about on the wet ground, delighted with it all.
I will never leave home, I thought then
Sammie, my red retriever, was the perfect police officer to watch over us all.

At least until mama’s call for supper could be heard.
Witchery must have kept my clothing dry
As I sprinted back over the worn mud trail in my bare feet
Until I reached my bike in the clearing near grandfather’s automobile shop.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine that these grey bricks
Are actually columns of sappy cascara trees
Like the kind that lined the edge of the woods where I first laid roots
In that first city.



©2019 M.J. Hambly, All Rights Reserved

Where I Remain

When I drowned at the beach as a child, I tried to scream underwater.

Bubbles captured the sound and carried it away to the thin sheet of surface

Reaching for the reflection of my mother, beyond my grasp

And I think that I never left that sunken place…


The voices here are also dull and distant

Filtering through my mind like two televisions playing at once.

How do I smother the fire in my lungs

when it was made by water?

There is a medicine to ease my pain,

but they say it takes two months of trial and error to work.

Surely by then the current will carry my form away

Like another plastic bag caught in the flow.


The woman with ash cheeks drinks her Starbucks from the bin

She smiles to an unseen friend on a patch of grass while her toes appear to have grown like foxgloves through the top of her old leather boots.

And I think she is the definition of free.

But I cannot sleep on scratchy blankets from disciples under the littered passes

So I decide that I must stay here, in my sunken place.

My neck cracks in a contorted sigh at the memory of my eyes opening, the sun on Mama’s face

She said, “We thought we lost you!”

But doesn’t she know, that I never left that beach?

My scream is carried on a foamy bubble along waves of melancholy

Crossing the bar of my disease

Over the Ocean of blues and blacks, past the ship with sails twisted

To a place just out of reach of the Lighthouse’s illuminating kiss.

And it is there, I remain.


©2019 M.J. Hambly, All Rights Reserved