Debra Bailey

Gods on the White House Lawn


We peek through the curtains.
Try to listen to indecipherable
words, our neighbor’s Pentecostal
rant at midnight.

“What was that she said,” I ask my sister.
We hold tight our hands like a backup
plan over this mystery.

Tomorrow, we will bring the lady
a Caladium plant ask to sit in her garden.
Watch for rain to enrich the red and green.
The three of us will encircle. Peer closely.
Find the holy words within.

She might try to thump us with her Bible
I might try to sneak inside her banana filled
house – be a thief that comes to steal
away the good.
I’ll trade her book for mine, an
illustrated copy of An American Tragedy,
Theodore Dreiser to the rescue.

That night I dream of brown and white
cotton pajamas, soft against my skin,
my idea of the afterlife.
I dream of another garden where we’ll
meet, sit on grass with poets and writers.
Drink the elixir of gods, reveal our
complaints for healing. When I wake – I
will not bring her my testament.

Today, I want to gather all plants and flowers,
the Chamomile, Feverfew, Johnny-jump ups,
Lavender, Lemon Balm, Rosemary,
white roses and lilies.
My sister and I will carry them to our van,
drive to Washington, ask for a private meeting
on the White House lawn.

We’ll pray to the plant gods.
Ask them to string their photosensitive light
Pierce the parts hidden – the disabled minds
of our leaders – provide green clarity in the heat.



I Turn Towards the River


Copperhead in front rears its ugly head.
My brother, eyes bright, stops us in our
tracks, shows us how to kill.

My sisters and I finally walk on – talk
about how we want cremation, our ashes
thrown in the Calcasieu river.

I didn’t expect all this death talk. One never does.
The body produces tiny spasms, little surprises
like goosebumps and tingling up the neck,

a shivering of limbs.
I center on green woods. See coral and buttery
yellow leaves – young foliage – like the skin of our youth.

Our walking sticks possess creature heads,
resemble brown talking snakes. We tap our sticks
in the mud, spill our death wishes.

We talk about the possibility
of an afterlife, how maybe we’ll all meet again.
But the river is too high, rushes too fast.

I am lost in sun and shade, lost in this fast heartbeat,
this hard going through these woods –
Secretly, I don’t plan to die, not even in that hour

when the grim reaper’s creamy hand touches my shoulder
and his shrouded, dark hood nods. Oh, I’ll probably go,
will sit up straight, my stomach tightening,

back rigid, knees pressed, but; perhaps, I’ll breathe deeply,
shrug off his gnarled fingers. Then reverie will be my end
as I turn towards the river.





Debra Bailey lives in Louisiana, a place she loves. She is currently working on a chapbook. Her poems have been featured in The Artisan, The Swamp Lily Review, and ATRO, the Acadiana Therapeutic Riding Organization.