Poetry: Selections from Dani N. Kuntz

Gray Alexandrine

At the red-brick ranch house, decades old, my mother
Lay in the hospice bed—or hospital bed—dropped
Smack-dab in the middle of the living room, dust-
Ridden, mostly untouched, until this pivotal
Phase in her life; there she lay emaciated,
No better word, really, and one must pity her
At this point if not any other, but all they
Get in return is anger and bitterness—this
Is not a narrative by which the death-bedder
Comes to an epiphany, or guilt, or regret—
Because at this point, she can barely even speak
And I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d
See her conscious, MeTV flashing at the foot
Of the bed, and this was shortly before Mother’s
Day—I know—so I had picked up a small flower
Arrangement for her, from Kroger, that had one of
Those stick decorations, which was a bear that had
“Mama Bear” printed on it, as close as I could
Find to “Mama Bird,” what she actually liked
To go by, regardless of her lack of caring
For those in her family; I can’t recall what
I talked to her about, but I remember that
Some actor on TV was playing Abe Lincoln
And Mama said she was hungry and asked me to
Make her an egg sandwich—her last wish—so I did
Though I never really cooked for her, she never
Taught me how, but I would have done anything then,
Which I did; I left the house to drive back to school
And within a week, she was in the hospital
For good, permanently sedated, us silent.

Contemporary Ode for the Father

There’s something to be said about a father’s love—
and I’m sorry for those who don’t know it—
especially when most used to a mean mother’s love
and that, flavoring your whole life, taints
every future relationship. Yet a father has a hidden
softness almost better than one visible.
My dad, I recently understood, saves all
the pictures I send him. My family-man
brother let me join the group of digital frame-holders
which seems pertinent now that I live over one thousand
miles away, and all the images Dad shares are so familiar
I think, when I realize they’re all mine;
Low-resolution photos of Alcatraz Island from the ferry deck,
pictures from the one trail I’ve walked since I moved here,
quality no matter,
and even the single existing selfie of me and my partner.
We’re not a photo-taking couple
but that’s okay
because his father loves him just like mine, me.
He was adopted, for God’s sake.
If you’re gonna pay that much money, you’re
usually going to love that kid and raise them right.
Yes, my partner with no trauma, no reason
to feel unfamiliar except for his mother’s
untimely death years ago; My father was also adopted, but of trauma
he has plenty. That’s undoubtedly a section
of the domino effect that led to his binge-drinking,
his hard exterior,
his ability to fuck with anybody. Dad,
like us all, is not the best. He’s not
a role model parent in the way you see on suburban sitcoms.
But he loves me so much that he roots for me, writes me
cards, lives with me through saving all my photos
and my experiences even while I’m commanding him to resist,
to not go on another two-week blackout binge, to keep himself alive
because he’s almost there and my only constant.

Blood War

And there was the day
shortly after I turned sixteen
when my mom took me
to donate blood for the first time,
because I wanted to,
and I was so delighted with myself
doing big-girl things during
my summer transition,
the most stressful time of my life,
and I remember when we pulled
up to the strip mall with the blood
institute, beige cement to match
my mom’s tan Ford Explorer,
and I’m taken back to a small room
after a short wait
where I fill out a questionnaire.
This is where I learn to lie
to healthcare workers.
Because I put yes—
I am too truthful—
Yes, I have had sex with a man
who’s had sex with a man,
because that disqualifies me,
because when the nurse says we
can tell my mom my heartrate
was too high, and she takes me back,
I get in the car with my mom
who is confused. Because I tell her
the truth because she told me
I always could tell her anything,
because when I tell her that yes
I’ve fucked a dude who’s
had sex with a dude, she says Oh,
my God, because You treat your body
like you’re a whore, Danielle
and she drives us home oh my
godding the whole way, shaking
her head, and that was the day
I chose to be a whore—might as well
if I already do whore things; meaning
that was the first day of my sexual
emancipation and Lord
I pray that all women,
can be whores.

Dani N. Kuntz is an Arkansas-born child of the world, a MFA-CW Poetry candidate at UNR Lake Tahoe (formerly Sierra Nevada College), and a graduate of Hendrix College where she studied English-CW. Currently, Dani is a freelance writer & Managing Editor of Sierra Nevada Review, with a full-time job tutoring children. Her work has appeared in eMerge Magazine and Auvert Magazine, and she is no stranger to rejection. Using their poetry & essays, Dani hopes to achieve a sense of empathy with readers.