Apartment B around Back

Here’s a poem for Jody Kennedy’s photo for the Ekphrasis Challenge at Rattle :

(sharing with the Tuesday Platform at the fantastic and much missed by me Imaginary Garden with Real Toads poetry blog):


Jody Kennedy Photography

Apartment B Around Back



On brighter blue Fall mornings

Agnes’s emptiness lays itself

out across the shitty sofa, inhales a Newport

with the bald sun coming in bloating the smoke

into still clouds striated by the blinds,

and tells her to go fuck herself.

There is laundry to do.


Always laundromats on stale, sexless mornings

leafless dead branches all thin and lonely

fencing in how small the world is

across the blue sky like gates;

always laundromats for these days-brown and shitty

7/11-salmon el Caminos parked on pale asphalt,

everything bleached out. The kind of day

where her emptiness usually gets up and

follows her in a stiff pea coat down the sidewalk

on the other side of the street, matching her steps,

never looking at her.
Agnes shifts out of her blue wool sweater

she scored at Vinny’s on the third of the month,

peels down the leggings with

the hole in the crotch

and can’t recall opening any condom hours before.


She pictures time in fragmentary images.

She sees the man, she sees the moisture

of their breath and she sees it dissipate as the man kicks

a hole into the window, as if he punched through

paper. Paper candy. Candy dots on those sheets

her parents used to buy her at Bay City Carnival. Sugar—


she squeezes what’s left of the syrup into her old coffee,

it’ll do.


She needs to think. On the couch emptiness

throws its head back

over the arm, following her

with a gaze into the kitchen and says

but not quite to her:



-smoke exhalation with a “phew” sound-

coffee ain’t gonna cure the shit you shot up last night, jus sayin’.
Agnes tries to picture his clothing, his hands,

his cock, but all she can see are teardrops,

moonlight on a syringe, his chewed finger tips.

He wears a noisy NASCAR jacket she remembers,

the whisk-whisk of his arms moving. “Here, oh

yeah there it is here we go…”

and she is following direction half-ass as her head

leans back against a red curtain.
Agnes…” the man sang as he tapped her arm. Hard.

She lifts her arm higher so he doesn’t get mad.
She opens the dirty hamper with its green flower

print on the vinyl, another thrift store steal.

Agnes opens the lid to pull out the clothes,

but looks past it and down to the brown linoleum

floor where coffee grains and bread ties gather in the corner.

She looks at the greasy white cabinets-her fingerprints,

theirs, his. On the counter the empty spray-paint can.
“Agnes…what you gonna do for me now Agnes,” his

words sugar. His eyes caramelizing as she lets him.


Emptiness enters the kitchen.
She looks at the sink. Milk thickened on spoons.

Chicken bones on a paper plate. She doesn’t remember

what happened after he says that,

and it plays like a chilled refrain

in the back of her head.

But she remembers just before

the sun came up. She took him for a time. Peals of her high

laughter, her self-possession, spray-painting

on the large rear window:

She feels the absence of that possession now

the way she feels Emptiness undress,

gather its belongings, and weep in the corner by the register.


Standing alone in her two-room apartment

with eviction notices in view from missing

the garbage can, her disability check stub, money

blown up her arm or down her throat or in her belly.

Her cell phone useless on the counter

with Doctor Allan’s number written

in marker on the refrigerator door. Pan camera out.

She watches herself in the lens go far away, shrinking

among the things that were hers—all she could call hers.

Out the window and into the

bleached blue sky morning, through and away from the

dark skinny grasp of leafless branches,

out into the littered alley and then up

into the telephone poles

into the wires and

into the sky.

14 thoughts on “Apartment B around Back

  1. This is so incredibly captivating… life and its harsh realities .. in scattered bits of truth and pain.. I can picture emptiness on the couch.. sigh..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How sad and empty this life you describe in fine detail, peel back to the bones.
    I have worked with these vulnerable folk and indeed how stark their lives and how much their longing to escape, yet through their vulnerability, they often return as it all they know and oddly have a sense of safety there…

    Liked by 1 person


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