Michele Elliott



I used to collect people but now I collect things.
People became unmanageable, so now I collect things.

The easy way out is, I am nothing.
I have nothing, so I collect things.

Like sounds and words and laughter
The uncollected, I collect these things.

I collect vision and dancing--lines blurring, beautiful
I have nothing to hold this in, but still, I collect things.

Like rainstorms and broken dreams,
Whispers and eyewinks--these precious things.

I am no one and nothing.
I am everything and urgent. I collect things.

Like silence and tears,
And loss. Oh, these precious things.

I used to collect people but now I collect things.
I have nothing to hold you in so now I collect things.



where my hair is not frightened
and does not draw itself closely
to the safety of my head.



I worked in a retirement home
Lillie Coudriet, west wing, room 305
She motioned for me
to come to the head of her bed
As I leaned in close to hear her words
She told me a story about herself and her sister
It seemed that they enjoyed sitting out
in the sun
soaking the warm rays
One day they stayed out too long and got "burnt"
like me.
"It was painful."
They mixed together a pint of cold cream
and plastered it all over themselves
Lillie demonstrated this by patting her face and
rubbing invisible cream into her hands
Then, their skin was cooled and they felt better
Lillie paused, looking into my eyes
"Are you staying here for a while?"
I thought she meant in the room so I said "yes"
She said, "good, then you'll turn white again and we can
welcome you and love you like a sister."

Patricia Buck
What Noise? © 2000. Mixed media on canvas. 83"Hx73"W
see more work by Patricia Buck




Begets sleep and in its birth it folds in on itself spreading
thick and wide, it remembers no life other than this
it grips me in its fist holding me down,
drowning me into submission, I have no mouth and yet
I find myself screaming, spiraling down
sleep holds me--I have been intimate with no other, it's crooning
in my ear--not songs but threats of leaving me alone in a room full
of people or worse my family--so I submit
and submit and sometimes I beg

when sleep turns me away, tires of me
that's when I want it most, its hot stare, not touching me
of course it's hell and I think--it's all a game these little torments
proving my helpless it eases itself snuggly back
into the space it almost left, nestling against me
that's when it's most unbearable, when it's holding me, sleep
will slip in a dream just to keep me sedate
it's charming at first, stroking my fears, relax
when I'm willing and soft it lets go
strips away any comfort tossing me aside
and then I lie still,
I wait alone listening to the sound of my breath



thin lips utter names
of lives long abandoned as
lines crease sorrow's face



Michele Elliot is a writer, visual artist and teacher. She is currently living in Washington, DC, teaching writing for DC Writers Corps, Young Playwrights' Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theater and the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She is a freelance grantwriter and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Recent publications include a short story in the anthology Best of Black Women's Erotica 2 and she is currently working on a book-length manuscript of poetry.

Published in Volume 4, Number 3, Summer 2003.