pris campbell


The Ladies in Black

The old ladies in black will say
he drained off his life by the gallon,
drove too fast on chrome-plated
bikes in the red hills near Sedona,
picked up women reeking of perfume
and too much hairspray, wasted 
his money on Gucci and cashmere
now discarded and dusty 
strewn on his closet floor.

I’ll say he gulped life down 
like he was starving,
drove fast for the sweet rush of wind
hard on his body, loved well,
but not always wisely,
and that his hands were warm 
on my face when he kissed me.

A version of this poem was published in Limehouse Press,
May 2002, a print journal  disbanded in the early 2000's.



Believing we would be safe,
hands clasped on our heads,
knees dug into the hardwood
classroom floor,
we readied ourselves for the bomb.

Today’s kids rush headlong
and unprotected by plump fingertips
towards weapons of mass destruction,
return, knees dug into stiff body bags,
hands speckled with Mideastern blood.

Budding angels, clipped by a different future
than Ike and Ozzie Nelson prepared us for.

Charred wing tips flutter into my backyard garden.
Misplaced halos clatter loudly along my street.
Those days of our own childhood make-believe
have slipped into the mists of time.

Like the Edsel.
Like starched crinolines drying
in stiff circles for the prom.



I come to you barefooted, 
breasts cupped in pink spandex 
eyes wide open, like a baby’s 
at midnight , a rogue cloud 
a teenager’s eager yearning. 

The sky has turned turquoise  
& I breathe in the fire  of a fast-falling angel,
melt my chakras into a brew for your potion. 

I am the first hallelujah, 
the last rebel rousing amen. 
The first swan to leave the lake, 
the last blink of innocence. 
I’m a girl again when with you, 
a woman, a thorn-in-the-side, a healer. 
Your head lowers, hurt, to deny me, 
but my lantern carries enough light for two.

The above poem is from Hesitant Commitments, my chapbook
in the Little Red Book series published by Lummox Press.


Tommy In The Sky With Diamonds

Stars blinked in the sky
that was us, high
in blackened theatre seats,
Roger Daltrey screaming,
seeeee me, heaaaaar me.
Clapton strutted down the aisle
past  his MM crazed crowd .
banners waving, blood of the
scotch bottle bled for thee–
Elton pin-balling that Wizard
in three foot laced shoes.
Pot so thick you could
slice the air.

Tommy, in rock opera glory,
resurrected across
that hazy Boston banned screen.

Tommy, Tommy,
sing us up the mountaintop.
Tommy, Tommy
lead us to the revolution.

We fell into each other after,
grasping and frantic,
eager to stretch
that fire into forever.


I rented the video years later.
My neighbor napped right through it and
my husband cracked lousy jokes, but

I slipped back with Daltrey
to the commune and you,
our bodies sweat-tight,
reliving the night when Tommy
lit up the theatre on Beacon Street.


making space

our house overflows with killed promises

and I think of days when

I still took kisses for granted

like ‘amen’
at the end of a Sunday prayer


the purr of a cat

when offered a nuzzle under the chin

we both know

yesterday dies

to make room for tomorrow

but you haven’t yet learned,

as I have,

that a heartbeat
can be revived 
by the curve of an arm,

the outreach of a palm.



Death’s perfume, he called it —
that cocktail of rotting flesh
mixed with the crisp burn of campfires
in the villages scattered throughout
the jungles brought to their knees by Napalm.

He drifted for more years than the war, 
high on that forgetting weed, 
bartering his soul to the demons.

My husband’s youngest brother,
when stoned, tells me his stories.

She still comes at night, he whispers,
this war bitch bearing belts strung with ears

How nice this will look on you

holds out grimacing skulls
skewered on bar-b-que spits
hewn of dying Vietnamese trees,

lamp posts for your yard

Offers snapshots of lost buddies 
before that march from
sniper fire to Washington Wall.

you can see them again

His sweat consorts with hers
breath stinking as she begs,
come with me
until, bedroom light still aglow,
cigarettes butts mounded,
dawn gives reprieve.


shadow dancing

my feet tread in circles

through a midnight quiet house.

Ghosts shadow dance from corners

striating old memories

across body and heart

a half-finished dream lingers;

sails white against blue

buoys red and keening
wind salting my hair

unbearable stirrings,

the resurgence of want


Piercing the Veil

My crystal ball rests on the mantle,
a reminder of endless yesterdays,
hair flying past bare shoulders,
beaded earrings, bartered savagely
from Washington Square peddlers,
clinking in time to sandals slapping
over cobblestone trails.

Gypsy, they called me,
the men who bent to kiss the hem
of my skirt, hands, neck…

My feet now stick to one place,
velcroed by the gravity of lost choices,
sandals tossed to the trash
scarves folded into camphor wood chest
earrings, toys for my neighbor’s child.

Yet, nights when the full moon rises
and the raven sings his sweet song
I take my crystal ball into lap
and gaze at the glass, eye to eye,
see the gypsy I once was,
the gypsy I still am.
My gift…
Me returned to myself.
Welcome home, the crystal sighs.



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