Her skin was white and papery, despite her (relative) youth.
Her hair was brittle cellophane,
dishwater blonde, with a gold stripe around it from some kind of cranial jaundice.
At night, she smoked herself empty.
There are degrees of empty,
and sometimes empty just purely hates to be alone.
My dog loved Violet Ward.
He had made a hole in the upstairs screen, as if it were the ozone,
and he would run to stick his great head out, at a word from her.
Sometimes she would bring her friend to see The Dog From The Sky.
They stood like stargazers by the fence, looking up.
He barked a blessing.
It was a pure, fine thing.
Violet Ward had a chow chow named Gemini,
but one day the men with their loops came and chased him around his own yard,
and took him away.
That night, Violet sat outside cradling a broken radio, and the sound that came
from her poor raw throat was unlike any I have heard.
There is no frequency for that.
It would break the air and stop hearts cold if it weren't contained.
"Shut up!" screamed Violet Ward's mother, in the public interest.
My dog's name was Sunny, and she was his faithful moon.
She called, he came, and he shone,
into her frozen world, as he had into mine.
Years later, I told my night-frightened son that Sunny could banish ghosts and devils,
and this was the God's Honest.
I had seen him do it a million times.
Because she was full of cancer, if nothing else,
Violet Ward's mother made an heirloom of emptiness
and screamed at her daughter to come collect it.
"You stupid little fuck!"
And so emptiness took root and went to work from within.
Violet Ward had a dark doll she called Nigger Baby.
I sometimes saw her come out the side door,
wiping tears with the back of one hand,
and shaking the shit out of Nigger Baby with the other.
Sometimes she bashed Nigger Baby's stuffed brains in against the side of the house.
"Bad Nigger Baby!" she would hiss quietly, so her mother wouldn't hear--
her mother with the perpetual headache and the cancer heart.
Every time Nigger Baby hit the siding, I flinched.
I would hold Sunny and breathe carefully around the broken thing in my chest.
I left Texas, and what became of Violet Ward stays at the edges of my dreams,
out of reach.
Sunny died and went straight to Paradise.
I finally got sober.
I had a child of my own and raised him, and I hope I did more good than harm.
His dolls were called Stretch Armstrong and Donatello.
When I still went to Mass, I prayed for Violet Ward, for years.
I hope she found a glow-dialed radio
to watch over her with Golden Light
and play only the songs that Violet loves--
Maybe Mitch Ryder--
and that she is all right.
Everything in this poem really happened, a long time ago, in Texas.
For Marian's "Dead City Radio" and Kim Nelson's "Violet" challenges at Real Toads.
It's Mother's Day.