Torn Leash

A Poem

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

when at the edge of getting caught
I knew nothing more 
what he told me 
the moon would light our walk
that night
the car rumbled off
I laughed at the jolt

the woods weren’t new
of course I figured out
blindfold off
I stood just beyond the 
soccer fields
where the dance team
stole away to smoke
and my sister

warned me not to tell
and watch my back 
if ever he would take me here
I laughed her off
and caught her eyes
lupine in their coloring
my lungs caught short
from memory

of thoughts of being hunted
like when I was locked outside 
her friend sneered at me
the window where our
grandma slept
those final years
that friend’s silhouette 
eyes in the dark

let me in
or keep me out
you don’t fool me 
for one bit
I slashed her tires
that night, I did
my sister had 
it coming

the trees outlined
traced by clouds
his breath along my neck
a desire 
and a sickness
all at once
the breeze carried rain
his sweat suffocating

my rage, boiling
wishing away
his hand 
pushing me down the trail
crunch of twig
came to an end
suddenly, “Run!”
and he let go

into the darkness
with the plan
spoiled by fear
chased down
and delicious
sisters feast 
the blindfold
in his hand

© Samantha Lazar 2019

Happy Halloween!

Someone Let Him In

But No One’s Held Accountable

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

An elementary school
One dead set on security
One with bills to pay
Just like all of us
One dollar away from closing
One family trust shy
Of the things we thought 
We paid for

You can hire a new person
Who won’t recognize faces
The ones who can’t hurt us
The solidarity of community
Hate splayed on the inside
Where maybe my child
Sat for lunch last week

Some stranger’s scribblings
The need to feel power
Let in with a key
Who has the key
Who knows the combination
A man with some ink
Who chooses White Power

A statement so bold
Written where our children eat
How did he get here
A friend of the family
So bold to hold witness
To the comfort we seek

When I was a child
It was better to hide
Where the ones before
Me arrived from
Could be shot by a kid
Who said it would happen 
At recess

This mother won’t be quiet
This is not what she chose 
For her son
She chose at least hoping
For the illusion of safety
He wouldn’t have to run

Graffiti so loud
Drafts of future lives
You were not supposed 
To be here
But someone let you in.

Samantha Lazar 2019

Other work by Samantha Lazar:Cut Yourself Open (And Let Your Writing Heal You)
What locked boxes are hidden deep in your closet?


A Poem

Photo by Sergey Pesterevon Unsplash

How exotic to be a part of your family
Your grandmother adorned in Shanghai Jade
Dreamy-eyed when your grandfather
Arrives home from the airport
Still very much alive
And celebrated widely
Kisses her, exhausted from healing,
Legacy beginning,
Doesn’t stop to sleep yet
And sits in his study
Clinking bourbon soaked ice
Between his cheek and his teeth

You and your sister
Not yet breathed life
On this earth
Will inherit these gestures
His folded-arm stance
Her slight secret humor
Their society’s gaze
The mountain view
From your own safari jet

And how as children
You will play
And read and dream
And not know
That I look at your class picture
Now with the others
Teenagers become
Perhaps moving on
From their loss of you

Author’s note: This is a poem I wrote in 2006. That year, a previous student of mine was killed with his entire family when their private chartered plane went down over Kenya.

© Samantha Lazar 2006

Thank you for reading. Some other writings by Samantha Lazar:Reaching Hill
A Short Story (Part 1)
Franklin Street Sidewalk
A Poem About Running Into An Old


A Poem

Photo by NASAon Unsplash

This is the wind
A force you only 
Know through 

This is the sea
Shoving your waste 
Returning it to you — 
How are you are surprised?
We’ve been here before

This is the power
To shift what we knew
Into counting 
What we still hold

This is the mystery 
Of all of our paths
No one to lead
Followed by death

This is the earth
Pleading to take
Her back after
That repeated argument
You’ll never win

No chance.

But she’ll always 
give you
Another try

Next time you’re free
A new generation
Born into debris

© Samantha Lazar 2019

Thank you for reading. You may also enjoy:

When Words are Lost
Translate it quickly, Melting weapons Back to metals, Where they

In the Wilderness
Faded as an autumn petal With nothing left to hide…

Wednesday Morning Walk

A Poem

Photo by Jonas Weckschmiedon Unsplash

one of the last days
through my old neighborhood
dewy empty soccer fields
Gatorade, a sock, someone’s chair
from last night’s practice

gravel road 
to the water
treatment plant
poison ivy 

encouraged by the creek
frogs awake hearing
our crunching steps

heron patient
at the pond’s edge
hawk huge
in flight before me

majestic white tree
still standing 
though choked in kudzu

the small trail
my dog, Annie
smelling possibility

my favorite willow oak
I bow to it
spring is strong
and I am alive.

© Samantha Lazar 2007

Thank you for reading. More poems:

My Grandfather this Morning
My grandfather this morning,

In this dream…
In this dream you ask for me
Instead of the other way around
I am staring in the mirror
Scraping at bits of misapplied…

Reaching Hill

Reaching Hill

A Short Story (Part 1)

Photo by averie woodardon Unsplash

What Ellen remembered most about Hill was his voice. He was always singing. And when he talked to her, he was completely there, listening to everything she said. He spoke like he was a 50 year old 16 year old, and Ellen was enraptured by that voice. He didn’t treat her like a little sister. He didn’t care that she was 12. Ellen was nobody’s sister. She also loved that he played the guitar.

When she saw him in Kevin’s garage, and Lori was there too, rolling back and forth on a skateboard covered in stickers, Ellen wanted to understand their language — how they spoke to each other after school. Knowing someone else’s problems and pains was like being in a secret club. She knew there were things that happened at their school that she could not imagine. But riding her bike by day after day, she saw them and waved.

Hill was the only one who really spoke to her. He even had a song she imagined was for her: “The Neighbor Girl.” She loved him.

Ellen didn’t know where Hill lived. His name was not really Hill — that was his middle name, a family name or something. When she asked him his name, he teased her; “It’s Frankenstein,” he said in that voice that filled her mind. Thick and full of laughter. She would marry him.

Hill often came over to her next door neighbor’s house. Kevin’s mother didn’t care that they smoked. She wondered if Brooke knew that Lori smoked. Ellen knew secret things about Brooke’s older sister.

Brooke was supposed to be Ellen’s best friend, and they would play “Time Machine” in Brooke’s backyard. Ellen wasn’t as skilled as Brooke at staying in character, but that was the main rule of the game. Brooke would spin Ellen on the tire swing: spin spin spin until it stopped and Ellen was dizzy — a delicious feeling. What world would Ellen wake up in when the swing came to a stop? She loved that Brooke ran away to set up while Ellen twirled. Then, when she got off, she would be in another land in another time. And the game went that they could not act as though they were in a game. They had to stay in character. Brooke would then act as a man at times, leading Ellen through riddles to find her way back to the portal. There was nothing that could interrupt this game. It had to stay this way.

Some times, Brooke let Ellen spin her and lead. But Ellen always loved it more when the magic was created for her. She was not as good at coming up with new characters and places.

Once in a while, Ellen would get off the swing, and she would be in some kind of time warp, where Brooke pretended to be a farmer or some other character who would act very suspicious. In a time warp, Brooke would not talk to Ellen. She would stay completely in character and speak to herself or other imaginary characters, but never to Ellen. Her immunities would not work in this situation, and she would have to figure out how to get back in the time machine without Brooke’s help. She could not get back on the tire swing and spin herself, because this was against the rules of a time warp and of the game in general. The other person had to spin you. So Ellen would be stuck in the time warp, and she had to figure out the right language or code word to make Brooke give her some clue to lead her back to reality.

Brooke was Ellen’s most exciting and stubborn friend. They could never break character. It was this illusion of reality that was different from playing “house” or “Let’s pretend” because in those games you could say, “let’s pretend that you have a baby, and now we are going to the store.” The rules of Time Machine were that no one was allowed to change the course of action without directly acting. One could not say, “Let’s just say you recognize me from another life time and it all feels familiar and we know we are soul mates and we fall in love.” It did not work that way. You could not verbally try to change the course of action. No one was in control, except Brooke, who loved to see Ellen frustrated.

On this particular day, Ellen was not much into the game, but she played it anyway, being Brooke’s idea. She was thinking of Hill and how she had seen Lori yesterday over at Kevin’s. She was standing in the field, and the wind was blowing quite fiercely. She was dizzy from the tire swing, a particularly rough swing; Brooke had grabbed the rope and pushed her into the tree. She hit her knee briefly before flying into the wind. Blood was seeping into her sock now, but she barely noticed. Ellen watched Brooke across the field, over where her dad mowed the lawn by the garden. It was late summer. The sunflowers were bent over and drying.

Clouds were gathering bulky above her. An August storm was tucked under those clouds.

Brooke’s back was to Ellen, and she was not speaking to her. A time warp. Ellen was annoyed. She wanted to talk to Brooke about Hill. She wanted to ask her about Lori hanging out with him. But Brooke would not speak to her. She doubted if Brooke even knew she was off the tire swing and coming over for the first clues to get her out of here. “Brooke,” Ellen called to her.

Brooke said nothing.

The only thing that could break the game was if their parents came to get them, and even then they continued and worked it into the story some how.

Ellen wanted to leave and go home. She suddenly felt furious. She sat down on a tree stump and cried.

That is when Brooke’s older sister, Lori and some of Lori’s other friends pulled into the gravel driveway in Kevin’s blue Isuzu Trooper. Lori and Angie were 15 and in 9th grade. But a couple of guys they hung out with were older and drove. One of them was Ellen’s neighbor, Kevin. His arm hung out the passenger sidewindow, a lit cigarette between his thumb and pointer finger. Another guy drove Kevin’s car. Lori was in the back seat with Angie. Ellen looked at them, her eyes swollen with tears. Brooke ignored them.

Ellen was embarrassed and frightened because they were playing this game, and they were in a time warp and how would they in that big car understand that? And she knew Brooke would not break character for anything. What would Lori say when she got out of the car? But that did not happen. They just seemed to be sitting in the car in the driveway. No one was talking. They were listening to a loud song. Kevin bobbed his head. The driver’s eyes were closed, his head against the back of the seat.

Angie, bored, looked out the window at Brooke who seemed to be talking to fairies in the tomato plants. Ellen wanted so badly to just figure out this code. To work her way back to the reality of this situation. Maybe she could just go up to Kevin’s side of the car. Work them into the story some how. But she knew Brooke would not play along.

Ellen stared at Angie. She was not particularly a fan of Angie and Lori. They were the girls who barely spoke to her in the presence of their boyfriends.

Four years earlier, Lori and Angie had set up a haunted house for Brooke and her in their basement. Ellen had been so excited about the attention and the creative way they were playing with them. Upstairs, they kept knocking on the basement door from the kitchen, impatient and bored.

Finally, the door opened with a creak. “OK. Come down girls, we are ready for you!”

They felt their way down the pine stairs in the dark until a small red light guided them through white sheets hung on clotheslines. A fan created wind. The bulges in the sheets made Ellen sweat in anticipation of a werewolf popping out to eat her alive. The bulges were an old lawn mower. A stepstool, a coat rack. She could hear a dripping and pipes churning from a flushed toilet upstairs. She heard Brooke’s breath and her own and the slickness of her sweaty hand holding hers.

There were no signs of Lori and Angie, but they knew they were somewhere down there waiting until the perfect second to get them to scream. The basement was enormous. Underneath their tiptoeing feet, it seemed every step was an eternity as if they were walking under water or being pushed back, warned against the evil that awaited them.

There was the dripping and the drone of the fans and the dim red light that lit up the whiteness of the sheets and a chalk drawing on the floor an outline of a body — was that blood or paint on the floor? Ellen’s eight-year-old heart was beating out of her chest. Brooke acted unafraid, although Ellen felt her wet hand.

Ellen felt herself begin to cry, and she wanted to say, “Let’s pretend the lights are on! Let’s say this is over! Let’s say your sister is not a demon and this haunted house is over!” But of course she didn’t break character. They could not because they were really scared. They could really feel claws upon their throats, tearing into their young bodies and dragging them off to a smoky boyfriend’s garage where they stared droopy-eyed all day, waiting for something to happen.

And then, it did happen. Ellen felt hands across her stomach, grabbing her, and Brooke screamed or laughed. She could not tell because they were shoved into a crawl space that had a door that locked. It was a storage room maybe; it smelled like mice, old and damp and infected with worms and spiders and mothballs. And the door clicked and they were completely locked in and alone.

“Don’t worry,” Brooke said.

Ellen pulled her knees to her chin. They heard two sets of feet above them stomping up the stairs, the door slamming shut, and laughter. And then, the feet walking around upstairs in the safe un-haunted, brightly lit kitchen above them. It would do no good to scream or kick at the door. For they would not let them out even if they broke character and said they gave up. It was all just pretend. Ellen would not believe it. Even in her fear in the dark.

The back door creaked as Angie reached over to open it from the inside. Wafts of smoke shot her in the face. Ellen stood on her toes, hanging on the roof and the window frame, not getting in. Lori got out and ran inside. The engine was still running; a hard guitar song was reaching its end. Kevin ashed his cigarette out his own window, got out of the car to switch places with the other boy, and slumped over in the driver’s seat. He leant his head on the steering wheel. This normally talkative bunch was silent.

“Are you getting in?” The other boy said from the front seat.

This was not someone from Ellen’s neighborhood. She had not seen him in Kevin’s yard. His hair was red, long and straggly. He spoke through the back of his teeth. His eyes were large and squinted. He looked like he had been crying.

“Kevin, please take me home.”

“It will cost you,” he mumbled.

“Aren’t you playing with Brooke? Where is Brooke?” Angie said.

Ellen turned back towards the field where it looked like Brooke was watching, but she was trying to act like she wasn’t. She was squinting in her glasses and hiding behind a butterfly bush in her mom’s garden. Ellen knew she wouldn’t leave her character though. She would not leave the game, even if Ellen did get in the car.

Lori came running back out of the house. She had a backpack and she had put her long hair up in a ponytail. “What do you want, Ellen?” She pushed past her leaning on the open door and got in.

“Scoot over, Lori,” Kevin said.


“We are taking Ellen home.”

“What? We can’t,” she said, pushing herself over on the backseat and pulling the heavy backpack between her legs.

“Please Kevin, I need to go home.”

“Isn’t your mom coming to get you today?” Lori said.

“No, I was going to spend the night, but I don’t want to anymore.”

She grabbed her own pack from the stoop on the front house and got in the car. Trying to not choke on the cigarette smoke.

Kevin put the car in reverse and started down the road. “We just have to make a stop first, Ellen.” He said.

“Where are we going?”

“We have to go find Hill.”

Ellen’s heart filled with longing. She wanted to be with these kids now, but she was afraid.

The country pattern of this side of town was rolling. Everyone had large tame yards and fields of dried sweet corn spread out on the right. To the left was a church, a feed store, some yellow barns, a yard of cows. Ellen had ridden out this way once before; when she and Brooke went with their dad to pick up something from a man who lived in Cross Plains. He had made them stay in the car. Three barefoot boys came out to see who was there. Brooke half-waved. She acted as though she didn’t know these kids, but Ellen saw her face redden, ashamed of being friends with them.

The bus didn’t go this way for Ellen. She rode through town to get to school.

“Where are we going?” She leaned forward from the back. Kevin’s eyes darted at her in the mirror.

“Not really sure yet, but I think he is out here. Where else could he have gone?” Kevin turned up the stereo. Ellen didn’t know who it was. Some louder guitar and drums.

“He said to bring you,” Kevin eyed her in the rearview mirror.

The boy sitting next to him turned around and grinned. He had braces with blue rubber bands.

This was the most he had ever revealed to her. Kevin was usually aloof.

Ellen sat back in the seat and closed her eyes. She heard his voice again. “He said to bring you.” And then, the memory of Hill that day. He had kissed her behind her house. Mom had been at work. The low hiss of cicadas in the trees grew louder as she stood leaning on his chest. He turned her around. What did he say? She loved to pretend she could not remember. To hold herself back from the whole memory. And think about seventh grade. Think about shoelaces and algebra. Think about her mom being at work at her desk all day with important people, important papers that kept her late. Feed yourself tonight, Ellie. I am working late. Latish. The cicadas and his baseball cap. The smell of his sweat. The mystery of Hill. Knowing less before he leaned over to her. Kept it secret, even from herself. So she could shine in that moment, before it happened. Over and over. She was in love. She knew Hill would not ever really leave her. Not really. She imagined them old, rocking chairs on their island patio. They barely spoke because they knew each other so well.

“I don’t know why he has to play such a game,” Angie said, “we all know he is bluffing. He won’t actually go through with it.”

“Shut up, Angie,” Lori pinched her arm. They began a pinching match in the car, squealing and rolling over on top of Ellen. She tried to move over into the door to get some room. The window screeched as she tugged at the opener.

Ellen realized she had no idea what was happening. Or where they were going. They crossed into the next county; farms rolled out in front of them. The braces boy passed a small metal pipe into the back with a closed fist. Then a lighter followed. Angie pulled a large cloud into her mouth and tried to cover her mouth as she spit out coughs.

Lori gave Ellen a hard stare, “Don’t you mention any of this to Brooke. We should have taken you home.”

“Relax,” Kevin said.

Angie held the pipe to Ellen, “Do you want this?”

© Samantha Lazar2019

Thank you for reading. You may also enjoy:

One Percent

Prompt 42: A child’s swimming ability seems perfectly on par with her peers at camp until she starts growing

The Silver Briefcase: How, as an Adult Child, I Learn to Let Go Over and Over
I held my dad’s hand — thumbs like mine, familiar as if I had been holding it for 38


A Poem

Photo by Matt Joneson Unsplash

Do the dogs know pain
Time just passes
without want
but for the moment

How I want to laze — 
Run like them

From waiting
for the car to show up
To pull into the driveway

Like it’s nothing

And everything
to hug your daughter

And remark on the pride
of seeing her grow and rise
to eminence
before your very eyes

Waiting for the showing up
is different from chasing

With chasing there is something
to go for

Even if it is imagined

How I long
to chase free
and have the dogs
tell me what to do

so I can walk away
from the bay window
of my childhood

Give me a reason to stop
watching the hill

© Samantha Lazar2019

Thank you for reading. Here are links to more writing:Paper Dolls
A Short
This Canyon (2)
Courage looks deep into that canyon
and says — I see you
and I am coming down to feel
the pain
and what blossoms in…

Driving My Grandfather Home

A Poetry Memoir in Free Verse (for Poetry Sunday)

Photo by Matt Alanizon Unsplash

My father drives his father home
Too weak to fly to the other side

It happens

We’ll leave his condo as it is
For now

The braced grins of my sister and me
Glued to the fridge

Children and grandchildren and great grandchildren
Frozen in time on the humid porch

Crabgrass and palm trees
Neighbors who knew him

And watched him
Perhaps his puzzles half finished

Still spinning
The music he could whistle flawlessly

To his wife
Her memory still staring from her chair

Beautiful knowing as time passes
We do what we can

My father arranges his one
Bedroom apartment

Then brings his father

© Samantha Lazar2019

Thank you for reading. You may also enjoy:The Silver Briefcase: How, as an Adult Child, I Learn to Let Go Over and Over
I held my dad’s hand — thumbs like mine, familiar as if I had been holding it for 38
My Grandfather this Morning
My grandfather this morning,


A Rubaiyat Poem

Photo by Jordan Whitton Unsplash

I watch the world crumble to its core
As media shouts our latest gore
After hearts and bones are left behind
Shattered, no longer live like days before

And who decides life isn’t worth
The beauty humanity shares at birth
But truth will see lies are entwined
With how we spend our time on earth.

Oh massacred, you never had the chance
To wander through life’s great romance
Or find yourself lost in all the choices
For your swollen voice to take a stance

Shields, if only for our children, provide
For ghosts of shame dare you not to hide
Leave only those who demand to dream
That soon a day will turn the tide

© Samantha Lazar2019

Poetic Form Challenge

Where Will My Child Be Safe?

A Poem in Response to Prompt: Maps

Photo by Matt Popovichon Unsplash

We all sleep, and breathe and dream in this city —

But do not go east at night, dear child.

I have mapped these crimes,
These grand indictments.
These crossed lines 
Extend past daybreak too
I’ve heard these tales, and steer clear
Of the latitudes and longitudes.

And south of here, right by school
Where you want to just look at Lego sets
Even though we have groceries to get — 
This parking lot becomes territory
To lost souls who are not here
For Starbucks or weekly shopping peace.

And yes, all 12 voted, first degree
Behind your soccer practice fields
Mark on your map, a felony.
Don’t be alone for crossfire then — 
Please hold my hand,
Just hold my hand.

And north of course,
Where you were born
Suspicious vehicle left to emergency
A man, left to bleed, 
a kid, really — 
Only 16.

Does his mother weep?
Her sweet son lost in the same driveway
Where first we both drove home,
Nursed our newborn boys
To sleep. 
Mark the north spot. Ink it, deep.

Well west, you said,
Mama look how the sun sets — 
It’s so beautiful, Mama. 
Please look away my child.
I learned that predators are out on bail, 
And I have no more ways for us to sail.

© Samantha Lazar 2019

Originally Published Here.