Lisa Pegram



the rocks sing in a round
each line cued by the shadow of a foot
melody crushed into the earth
rising in a scattered chorus of dust

"this loneliness won't leave me alone"
stitches orange meridians across blue denim

"NEXT!!!" marches across the yard
in a coarse uniform and hand me down boots
a cloud passes over the sun
the crack of ball to bat

the labored drag on a cigarette
spins silken lies across wrinkled lips

small talk is a big fish in this tiny pond
collecting in the corners like spiderwebs
clock strikes 3. school bell rings.
innocence is deaf today

long enough for recess.



his face is a fort
built of brick and chalk mortar
the ribs—posts marking a midnight dock
waiting in red silence
for an excuse to defend itself

no entry beyond this point
upon pain of death
day breaks, a shock of cobalt
foregoing dawn
smoke stacks choke out black intentions
disguised as transparent

her memories are always pastel
wary of primary shades and harsh lighting
she hides her most vivid thoughts in the folds of her skirts
warmed like a nest of eggs beneath the baby in her lap

wailing vicariously
through its hungry cry

photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis


What is said in conversation
When all of the women leave the room?
Satin glove slipped from the fist
An uncut deck of cards

The men show their teeth
Marking opinions like territory
As they laugh upside down
Wrinkles shape-shifting
Between stone, wood & flesh

This cut & paste debate
Sits in the shade of cigar smoke
Sips dark liquors neat, no chaser
Spans home fronts and auction blocks

Laughter & shit talk
Roll like distant thunder
Making bridges of fragments
Ending in guarded embraces
As quick as they are firm.




Burn sage across the joints
that creak like stairs
fingers of smoke polishing memory

Drape linen the shade of candlelight
over this mirrored heart
with iridescent webs clinging
like doves to its limbs

Sweep the corners of crow’s feet
Scrub bleach into the spine’s grout
Re-tile the smile

Pull the secrets from their hangers
Neatly fold them for Goodwill

Take out the trash

The eyes
Cloudy windows, rusted shut with promises
The doors
Each an embrace oiled with lavender

One last time
Flung wide open

A parade of casseroles
carried carefully across the threshold
still warm
blushing under a veil of sentiment

Kiss the woolen curls
Clustered at the nape of neck and temples
like women huddled silently
dressed in white

Haram—a muted shroud of tears
Dishes, left in the sink
and a faucet dripping.


Mr. S bends down to pick up a pencil
and whisper Lolita under her pleated skirt as she solves equations at the board.
She don’t know what it means
but it makes her hide behind her tangled curtain of hair
and lick her lips.

Her name is Lola
Only Abuelito calls her Lolita
when he has candy or money in his pocket
when he wants her to sit on his lap
to hear the story of the day he broke a wild pony.

Mr. S drives an old Impala
like the one in her only memory of Papi.
She remembers him underneath the car with only his calves exposed
An obsidian birthmark crowns his work boot
She inherited the same one
It is her only proof of family resemblance.
The memory sealed in a frame by her bed.

One brisk morning
Lola tucks Mami’s jungle red lipstick into her lunch sack
between the plastic baggie of sliced mango
and 2 pastelitos, 1 de carne y 1 de pollo
sweating oil thru a napkin printed with forget me nots.

Today, she will fail a test on purpose
even though she stayed up all night studying.

Under a tree just off campus
Student teacher conference
He missed lunch to grade her paper first.
She saved the pastelito de pollo for him
because they taste better cold
and are her favorite for the bits of boiled egg
that he now spits into the greasy napkin.

Dappled leaves blaze shadows across her cheek
She looks like the only photo he has left of the one who got away.
In it, she is 14. Like Lola.
Balanced on a crooked branch in a great tree
The future tangled in her hair.

Stealing gazes, neither of them says a word
He chews. She waits.
Like good grades, they will pace themselves

It is only first semester.


Lisa Pegram is a poet, songwriter and arts educator. A DC native, she has over twelve years' experience in custom designing innovative and successful arts programming for such organizations as the Smithsonian Institution, Studio Theater, National Geographic, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She has served DC WritersCorps since 1998, beginning as a teaching artist and becoming Director of Programs. Pegram was three-time Head Coach of the DC team for the Brave New Voices National Youth Poetry Festival and coached the 2005, 2006 and 2008 teams. She has led youth development programs for the Latin American Youth Center, Asian American LEAD and Multicultural Community Services. Pegram was awarded a Mayor's Arts Award for Outstanding Emerging Artist in 1999. Her poetry and essays have been published in Bum Rush the Page (Random House, 2001), Beyond the Frontier (Black Classic Press, 2002), and Beats Rhymes and Life (Random House, 2007). Onstage she is frontwoman of “Lady Pcoq and The Plumes.” Her music has been performed at The Kennedy Center, Fete de la Musique at the French Embassy, the DC Hip Hop Theater Festival and the London International Festival of Theater. She currently works as a songwriter and youth development consultant, leading writing workshops, arts-integration teacher trainings and directing the CentroNia Saturday Arts Leadership Program for Girls.


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.