The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Angela Howe Decker’s “Splendid Catastrophe”

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From Angela Howe Decker’s chapbook, “Splendid Catastrophe”

Family Circle

At nine years old,
I help my parents get stoned.
This is a time when they are still friends.
Dad has a coffee table
with a secret door
for his small stash of marijuana, matches,
Zig-Zag papers.

While my mother lights candles and incense
like an abbess before evening mass,
he arranges his supplies with a precision
he lacks in ordinary life.

Like a surgeon or a master chef
he gently rolls a tight little cigarette,
sometimes in complete silence,
sometimes with a lesson:
The trick is to not overstuff the dooby.
I nod wisely, watch them,
plan a run to Taco Bell when they get hungry.

Soon, the house turns magical with lush, tangy smoke
whorls and whorls of it fanning from their mouths
spiraling from cones of incense
seeping from burning joints and orange candles.

I take my place by the record player,
wait for dad’s signal.
First he hums, then:
Put on the Creedence, Boo.

I play the album as he takes one more long hit
then sways into my mother’s arms.
They rise like a marvelous dragon
exhaling in a kiss
while the band croons about hoodoo chasing
and Bayou queens.

They each take my hand and
we make a clumsy sort of circle
a silly sort of family
giggling and dancing like
the children we were meant to be.

This selection comes from Angela Howe Decker’s chapbook Splendid Catastrophe, available from Finishing Line Press. Purchase your copy here!

Angela Howe Decker lives in Ashland, Oregon with her husband, two sons, and way too many pets. Her poems have appeared in African VoicesHip MamaThe Wisconsin ReviewComstock ReviewJefferson Monthly, and others. She teaches introduction to poetry writing at Southern Oregon University and writes an art & literature column for the local newspaper. Her work appears in the recent anthology, Knotted Bond: Oregon Poets Speak of Their Sisters. Her chapbook, Splendid Catastrophe was published this year by Finishing Line Press.

Leslie LaChance‘s poems have appeared in Quiddity, JMWW, the Best of the Net Anthology, Apple Valley Review, The Greensboro Review, Juked, The Birmingham Poetry Review, Slow Trains, Free Lunch, Chronogram, and Appalachian Journal. She also edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration. Her chapbook, How She Got That Way, appears in the quartet volume Mend & Hone from Toadlily Press.


2 thoughts on “The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Angela Howe Decker’s “Splendid Catastrophe”

  1. Love this poem! Can feel the stuffed, tight atmosphere combined with a negligence – with a child in the middle – It holds both edges – It could touch the tragic because of the Innocence mingled, but it could also flower some unreal comedy.. So which one is it? Love this ambiguity..Thank you!

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