courtenay schembri gray – 3 poems

Hell's Ashtray

Oh, so that’s how you dance, I said to him.
He backed into the door, slamming it shut 
with a couple of taps from the ass—two 
glasses of tap water in hand. A faint taste
of mint hugs the glass, revealing a vanilla 
edge. Bold as brass, I took a chance and 
asked him if he thought the sky was really 
blue, or if it was just an illusion to keeps the 
cogs turning and striking. Maybe it’s both,
he whispered on the back of a half-laugh,
bronze like a bitten apple exposed to air. 
I suppose I should argue, but if the sky is 
blue, then I guess I shouldn’t really care as
long as I can spend a small mercy on you. 

After ‘Daddy’ by Sylvia Plath 

Doctor, in your horn-rimmed 
glasses, gum-chewer, diagnostic
overseer. I feel that familial ache, 

dumbbell-heavy, pressing down 
upon me like a teacher or a screw. 
I do, I do. Not without consequence,

or theft of blue. Round the dinner 
table we braise the chunks of meat 
over you; blazing anarchist, untrue. 

Landlord of the Soul

Love is a scourge
on my sanity.

It is the landlord 
of a soul forced into 
paying for a limp survival.

A squeaky mattress 
and a sink that spews 
brown water.

Things we take 
under our wing
—to be nurtured 
until the collapse. 

COURTENAY SCHEMBRI GRAY is a Northern writer of the weird, the eerie, and the macabre. She is the author of The Maple Moon newsletter on Substack: