"Betty’s Current Status" by Paul Jones
I’ve got a boombox I bought in 1985. I only play two tapes, Beastie Boys and Nine to Five. I found it in the attic when I finally got divorced. It's the one reason I’m still alive. That and a cat named Beetlejuice and a son in California who FaceTimes with me twice a week. And a check from the Bastard with whom I never speak. Not even a check really but an e-transfer from his lawyer. Into my account from that no account. I quit buying razors. I quit buying Nair. “Grow where the hell you like,” I say to my body hair. Not that I don’t care, but that instead I found some value there. Some beauty really. My reflection wasn’t their perfection anymore. I am the one who can, after some adult pottery classes, turn mud into a plate, into a vase, into a magic mask. The mask is a way to see and be seen more clearly. The mask has one eye a bit cockeyed, nose a little off-center with one nostril flared. Not like the photo I had made for Match. That one is posed, lit up, touched up, softened up, made up, and smoothed out. That one got 200 messages in 36 hours. What took you so long, guys? The one message I might have answered began, “I too have seen tragedy. At our age, who hasn’t?” I almost read it. I felt a kinship there, but a distant one like the shadow image in a family photo of a forgotten third cousin. I held the mask between me and the screen. “He knows how to play the records, but honey you know those grooves too well. You know those moves,” said the mask. The mask ain’t illin’. The mask knows the truth. Some places it’s all takin' and no givin'. Pass me the scalpel and I’ll make the incision. I make my own decisions. I cut out the part of my brain that goes on suicide missions. I mean Beetlejuice has his favorite box and I’ve got mine. I turned all the mirrors in the house around so they won’t shine.
Paul Jones has published poetry in many journals including Poetry, 2 River View, Red Fez, River Heron Review as well as in cookbooks, in travel anthologies, in a collection about passion (What Matters?), in a collection about love (…and love…), and in The Best American Erotic Poems: 1800 - Present (from Scribner). Recently, he was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Web Awards. His chapbook is What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common. A manuscript of his poems crashed on the moon’s surface on April 11, 2019, as part of Arch Mission’s Lunar Library delivered by SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander. Jones serves as Board Member at Large for the North Carolina Poetry Society and is Vice President of the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network.