Tag Archives: Pam Riley


by Pam Riley

I should write a poem
about the winter
your conscience went south –
New Orleans
a balcony on Bourbon.
Beads and smiles
are so beguiling.
You drank body shots
off a girl with
a jaguar tattoo.
She told you she was 17 –
a number you could
believe in
all the way back
to the hotel.

Or maybe i should write about
the cancer
your sister almost had
last autumn –
that pit in her vagina
made all the doctors nervous.
They took pictures,
scans in black and white,
and six months later
she still birthed a son.
Your mother insisted
on a funeral
and all the family wept
except for you.

But I think I will write about
that summer
I woke up
naked in your arms.
August had never looked so clean,
and you licked me
off your fingers
before we drank our morning coffee.
You told me I was the best
you’d ever had,
and I was flattered
you even remembered my name.
But later that morning
as we put our clothes back on,
I felt you staring
at the mistake I’d made
below my hips
and knew that salvation
had left the room.



by Pam Riley

I was never skilled
in the fine art
of flirting
I could not get my eyes
and smile to crook
like a tiara
or tie a cherry stem
with my tongue
I could not insinuate
magic into adjectives
or let my hands
do the talking
across a room
I could not swirl
a dress into a circle
around my ankles
or drape myself
across a chair
like midnight
But I knew how
to keep the evening guessing
with words you understood,
to slip the sheets
with shadows
and warm a bed

with plain and simple


by Pam Riley

I like beauty bold and cheap –
tinsel trees with greedy blue stars
and the kind of candles
that smell like fruit
rings and ribbons so gold
they stain the furniture
when I shift
and black tafetta dresses
that stand up in the corner
and welcome in the crowd
I like oil paint
smeared across the canvas
and red velvet sofas
that swallow up the simple
silver gilding
on my porcelain cups
and my men
so thick and gaudy
they wear out my kisses
with bruises on my lips.


by Pam Riley

It smells like a fart in here
he said,
but I guess that is how
all old people smell-
bodily functions,
strained beets gobbed
on their chins and collars.
I don’t want to grow grey,
my hair a scrawny animal
trapped atop my head,
my hands rumpled
and sour with bruises.
I don’t want my pants to dangle
like strangers from my belt,
my legs grown thin
and knotty
or my chest left
to collapse inside my sweater.
I want it to be a brutal kiss,
something that severs
skull from spine
and peels my smile
back across the sky.
Not the slow turning
of earth and worms
and last night’s dinner
an offering
to your gods.