BROKEN: Do Not Use / Sheree La Puma


BROKEN: Do Not Use

poems by

Sheree La Puma

ISBN: 978-1-59948-858-5, ~56 pages, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: January 28, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount price expired January 2, 2021.

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Main Street Rag
PO BOX 690100
Charlotte, NC 28227-7001

Sheree La Puma is an American poet and memoirist whose work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Redivider, The American Journal of Poetry, WSQ, Chiron Review, SRPR, The Rumpus, Plainsongs, Into The Void, and I-70 Review, among others. Her poetry was recently nominated for Best of The Net and a Pushcart Prize and her micro-chapbook, The Politics of Love, was published in August by Ghost City Press. Sheree received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and taught poetry to former gang members.

For La Puma, the question is what to wear to dualism’s dirty parade. Unadorned with V for victim, these poems are red balloons marked with the black letter “M” for mother. Written on the pages of her children’s backs as they walk away, each line unravels likes threads of sorrow, each metaphor a raft filled with family pictures drifts toward the shore of the world.  ~Daniel Edward Moore, author of Boys and Waxing the Dents


In Sheree La Puma’s beautifully reflective Broken: Do Not Use, the natural and human worlds mingle in quietly unsettling ways. She paints a “surreal & sensuous world of roots” populated by lullabies and toxins, families and wolves, deep yearning and equally deep grief. These resonant poems illustrate how meaningful details can reflect larger human concerns, painting intimate portraits of personal, cultural, and ecological tragedies. I dare anyone to read these poems and not be shaken and moved.  ~John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another



Under the influence of a “Pink Moon” the knife
feels good, pressed, deep, into skin. Pain scraped

out & freed from purpose. If mother is the face of
connection shared like bread at an unworthy table,

I am her anguished sister/fractured mind fixated on
the art of dying. Yet, there is no explaining a scar to

my daughters. I blame the cats/dogs/those feral beasts
unchecked in dark spaces. Not the knife. Never the knife.

We never talk about biological illness, the stranger
lurking in our DNA, tumored & aloof like love, or

shame. When I fail to follow the culturally appropriate
trajectory, life becomes a lethal storm. Sweet, cold

water manifesting itself as blame, poisons a generation.
Exiled, I swim alone under the hallucinatory moon.



The Ghost of Mother


If there’s an oasis for weary travelers along
the silk road, I’ve yet to find it. I wander
like an outlaw trying to bag the sun.
Memories scattered, bits & pieces, here
& there like breadcrumbs. I handfeed a dream
that’s clearly dying. Everything I touch turns to dust.

Once Upon a Time, I made soup out of stones. Mixed sugar
with raindrops in an old honey jar. Too young for Kool-Aid,
or half-baked suicide, Grandma’s. After her death, my rape
abortion, miscarriage, two live births, then you, heavy,
with vernix. A complex shield, made up of lipid-rich butter
that lingered in the folds of your skin as if to say, “I am not you.”

23 years later, I reminisce on the caustic nature of mother.
Try to recall the warmth of you. I can’t. Was it the drugs?
They flowed through me, branching out, unraveling in triple time.
Triggering something deep & mournful. “Sorry, Katie I missed
your call. Dead phone.” I wasn’t ready for another suicide, yours,
mine, or separation, now 4 years long. Grief, leading nowhere.

Split open, more alone than I’ve ever been. I am losing myself,
searching for you, this house, crowds, that coffeeshop on Sunset
where I got you to crack a half-smile for a photograph that sits on
my desk. It’s all I have left. Motherhood haunts me like a ghost. I google
your name after every disaster. Who am I if not mother? I began
in a backseat, couch, alley way, in a room with a knife to my throat,

weeping until the cops came. “Do you have somewhere else to go?”
Out the window with Bob, my punk rock boyfriend, living/dying
in a garage, stealing morphine from his mother. Her cancer dark
& thick, low dust cellular insulation, blown in. She died. We lived.
Now Bob peddles sobriety on TV in a form of redemption. He has
3, kids & 500,000 Instagram followers & I have a beautiful blank wall.



At First, I Wanted to Marry Jesus


Having watched him sing Hosanna on Broadway,
I fell in love. His voice a next step pastoral,
resurrecting my animal bones. At 15, I have felt
the approach of darkness. Disembodied from
congregation, I am waiting for a flicker of tongues
to swallow me whole with prayer. I’ve yet to
understand this body I’ve grown into, Christ
unlocks the door, leaves me wanting. There
are glimmers of something holy & pure in the
girl I meet in choir. Leah is a luscious bolt of
wet & I am a thirsty kingdom. On weekends
we sail around the harbor, imaging a different
homecoming. Is it better to marry than sin?
My husband slept on the couch for a decade. I
remember his suffering, how I yearned to say,
“This might make you ache, for someone.” It takes
the hand of god to make a beautiful widow. When he
does, a woman on the beach, pale, tattooed. She is all
of my failures. I will die, unable to see my own skin.

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