Free Verse Story Poems
Esther had not gone to bed that previous evening; instead she
went into the bathroom and took a whore’s bath.
She washed her face and neck, brushed her teeth, sprinkled
water down below and combed her hair.
Returning to the kitchen, she sat on the bench watching the
clock’s ticketing fingers as she worried about the situated
violence of last night and seemingly every weekend.
From the second day of their Mexican honeymoon, her
husband had forced her out of their suite and into the hallway
because she refused to wear a very revealing bikini to the pool
area where the native men gawked and the women glared at her.
He had said that he just wanted to see her in the bikini.
Then when she sported it for him, he’d thrown her out into the hotel hall
like a menses rag, locking her out with nothing but her skinny, stupid ass.
Since that day, the insults, the thumping and harming hand had progressively
wounded her body beyond the point of repair or healing.
Naively believing in the notions of her times, free love and people power,
she had experienced it all until he came into her life.
From a well respected family, a fast new car and the education she
never could afford or had known.
He had been her ticket out of her past.
She could hardly believe it when he noticed her and had asked her out.
Going to nice restaurants and driving to Martha’s Vineyard and Toronto for
the weekend just blew her mind and so she was giddy with anticipated pleasures.
Then after several months, he took her to a famous restaurant at the top of
a building with its panoramic view and set a diamond on the table and
asked for her hand in marriage.
Shocked, she said, “Yes!”
The diamond ring was beatiful on her finger and everyday week, she had
nails manicured and fresh paint applied.
Twisting the ring on her finger so that others would notice and comment
her slender fingers and that wonderful diamond.
She immediately began planning for the wedding at her church but no
the wedding had to be at his family’s church.
His mother would take care of all the details since he knew that she had other
more important things to do.
She knew she would make the perfect wife just like his mom.
She was more then happy to rid herself of her maiden name for his
more esteemed surname.
Then on the day of the wedding, the minister couldn’t get her name
straight, repeatedly calling her Belinda, Barbara, and Sandra after
being quietly corrected.
Perhaps it was an omen, but she would keep her vows.
She tirelessly worked at becoming Julia Child in the kitchen, a
tiger cub in the bedroom and acting like his best friend with others.
Finally, after five years of Esther rushing around like a headless chicken,
she had grown weary of chasing after that gold-plated carrot and
began a slow uncoiling.
So many broken dreams, promises and truces produced and were
followed by more violence, more lovers, more false and conniving
friends, no children, no secure job, no love, no comfort or affection
but rather more drug parties, and an ever increasing
distance between them.
All the ugliness had begun a wasting away of herself and of her being.
The fatiguing hurts, the mental confusion and doubts unraveled her
soul from marrow to skin to her permed hair follicle tips.
Symptomatic of her collapsing state was her advancing
The first years of her marriage began the small changes within
her like dropping out of college and missing and forgetting important
Then came the inability to remember familiar names of friends,
known words, losing interest in hobbies and losing valuable trinkets.
Three months into their marriage, she visited a nearby post office
and carelessly left her purse on the clerks’ counter with several
hundred dollars inside of it.
Now every weekend, she roamed the pharmacy around the corner
purchasing creams and ointments for an itchy skin rash on her
neck arms and belly.
Then last week while she shopped at the neighborhood store,
she became so confused and felt lost so much so that she
couldn’t determine the direction of her home and took a taxi
the three blocks.
She had to smoke a joint just to have sex with him now.
Sleepless at six a.m. Esther began preparing to return to the
church where she had been married and where she first learned
to know and experience love.
Some warm, waterproof boots, a lace dress that fell just below
the knees with a silk sweater, a handkerchief, French-chocolate
stockings, a pair of leather gloves, a bottle of water, a container
of hot coffee and a long, shearling coat were some of the items
she placed in her shoulder bag and set aside to wear.
Driving their van was out of the question since he had driven
off with it after the Friday night fight.
She dressed, left the building, walked the two blocks against a
bitter wind and took the bus to church.
People exited and boarded, she didn’t notice or care, for
her thoughts were pressing in and flooding her senses.
Once she was seated, her right knee compulsively trembled
and knocked against the back of the seat before her.
With her head leaning against the cool window, she tried to
close her eyes but the fights, the name calling, the violent threats
repeatedly played out in her.
Then somewhere between Ralph and Clarkson Ave, a man with
music box playing Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s Going On?” boarded.
Instantly, the entire bus along with her was filled with a clear
sweetness that she followed like a piper, mouthing the words,
‘Mother, mother, mother, there are too many of you crying.
War is not the answer for only love can conquer hate!’
Bitterness sprang up like bile in her cheeks and swallowing it
down she snickered, “Right. All these years I’ve been loving him
and now all I have are these scars as my witness.
He loves nothing and no one, so who’s the fool?”
Afraid to take in a decent breathe, she quietly mused as the saltwater
tears welled and popped onto her cheekbone like carnival props.
Alone and lonely, she let them fall while she questioned herself about
what was really going on within her when she married the bastard – fool.
Reflecting on her foolish choice to stay with him, she scratched her
head in misery.
Oblivious to everything but her pain, she missed her stop.
Then when the driver announced the last exit and shut off the bus,
she got off with Marvin’s voice lingering within her still.
“What’s happening, brother?”
“What’s happening, sister?”
“What’s going on?”
Those troubling questions, that people sang but no one bothered to ask,
especially no one in her circle. Plus if they ever asked, she would have been
too afraid to honestly answer.
Just the question alone, produced a sweat on her cold brow and like a
drowning swimmer, she gasped for air or anything other than the killing
tides of her life and emotions.
Lies, gossip, secrets and everything about her condition was as a
passing, polluted torrent of sad hurting.
Briskly walking on autopilot through the familiar streets, she knew
that her white picket fence, a loving, kind husband and beautiful babies
were unreachable so she wearily pulled her buttoned coat tighter against
the winter winds.
Pushing on with her mounting doubts, the idea that she had one more
performance produced an all-consuming stomach pain and she imagined
lying down and covering herself with the cold, grey sidewalk.
next: Esther – Part Two
more by DEBRA BISHOP
photograph by Dominik Schröder