Excerpt for Pigtails and Curls by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Published by Poetry House Studios

© 2018 – Poetry House Studios - Ann Kestner

Smashwords Edition

Cover design and artwork by Ann Kestner

All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly prohibited.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following publications where a number of these poems first appeared: Open Minds Quarterly, Eunoia, Eskimo Pie, Eunoia, Three Line Poetry and Verse Wisconsin. (Some poems have appeared under the pen names Isabel Kestner/Sylvan and April Lynn.)



he said

I could be.

But he

was nothing

to me.


Beneath the pigtails

is a girl

in secret crisis.

No one knows.

Only she hears

what every strand

of hair


No one could

ever guess

what those




tell her.

Haunted Nursery

Somewhere between

the barely noticeable

outlines of highchairs

and toy boxes

hides a secret.

Forgotten Song

Things want to appear

from their long disappearance

but fear themselves too forgotten

to return.

These are things that not even dust

rests upon to remind us.

Memory is an invisible movie

when the mind fails to provide

a screen for viewing.

Some things are just a song

you know you know

yet can’t sing

a single note.


The way she

carries a soul

to insanity-

-the steps,

so gracefully

she shows you.

And you follow.

And you go.

Day Dreams

Butterfly dreams - catch one

and then another dashes by.

How can one decide? So many

beautiful dreams dancing by.

I dream to be the sky.


And we make such beautiful plans,

like skilled architects with colored sketches.

Contractors and suppliers we say

we'll call upon, but never do.

Blue-prints unrolled,

we rearrange the rooms

until it's just an empty hall

and we no longer care to build.


I shuffle thoughts,

count losses on my

winning hands.

This game of solitude

I no longer care to play.

Still, I cheat myself

with every hand.

Prize loneliness,

trophy pictures of old friends,

and I shuffle the cards again.


How long can

this candle burn

before skin

blisters beneath

the waxes of

my melting



What if the night turns

completely black

like it was then

like it was when

the stars

shut down


themselves from the sky

one faded, fading

dim good-bye?

What if the night


before it woke

the sunrise?

Blue Suicide

Blue spell

gets shotgun

pulls trigger.

Casualties include

unfilled dreams

future memories

and the possibility

that life

could have

become better

if Blue kept


A Letter to His Ashes – December 1992

You said you'd meet me Saturday. You said you had a tape for me to hear. And not that stuff the radio feeds. You'd gotten it from a friend of a friend. I was looking forward to it all.

We'd get some coffee, go to the park. They had those bouncy things there. We'd jump up and down and try to make the other fall off. I liked the swings and how the spiral slide always looked like it would break when you were on it. You'd get that crazy boy smile. You were a pirate, a rover, a king. You could do anything.

I was the quiet one, said you shouldn't be so brave, but I liked you anyway, even loved you sometimes--but I'd never admit to that. Best I ever did was kiss you once. You'd slammed my hand in the car door and it pissed the hell out of me, but I didn't know how to hit, so I gave you a kiss on the cheek. You just smiled. I'm sure you liked it and I know you never meant to slam the door on me.

I was hoping that you'd play that game with me. The one where we'd sit side by side at the top of the straight slide with a handful of stones. We'd take turns letting them slip down to see who could get one closest to the edge without it falling off. We never kept score, but our sides would touch and we'd flirt like little kids.

I was looking forward to it all, when a friend stopped by Friday night. She said you'd died that afternoon. I guess you slid your stone too far. You left me waiting. You never said good-bye. I spent half of Saturday hurling stones at the slide

And your sister gave me that tape you wanted me to hear. It was a kiddy tape. You could have said good-bye.

Spelling Escape

I am only trying to hide

here behind strange words,

only trying to avoid bad

memories with bold verses

as if there were a word

somewhere that could wake

me from this bad dream.

I am only hiding in an alphabet

trying to spell my escape.

The Dream

I have nothing for you,

I said to the dream.

"Carry me."

I am weak.

"We are strong."

Where will we go?



"And below."

I do not understand.

"We will travel."

But I am lost.

"That you do not know."

I am frightened.

"I am your fear."

I can only cry.

"Then we shall sail

upon your tears."

Where will they take us?


We sailed away.

Night’s Secrets

This moon has seen too much of me.

Her one watchful eye found too many

secrets I would not let the sun see.

And every night she reflects them

back to me.

The Curls

I cannot comb my curls.

They want me to be straight.

Walk straight. Talk straight.

Get in line.

I try. I pull out hair. I try again.

Another tooth of the comb breaks.

I cannot be straight.

Trying To Keep Up With Mom

I remember running to keep up with you. Always racing. Always steps ahead and away from me. You moving from me as fast as you could in your old shoes and me trying desperately to catch up in my outgrown sneakers.

Some days, I remember, I was a great marathon runner trying to impress you. Though, most days I was a crippled dog you pulled on the leash of your arm.

Why did you try to out run me? Why am I now, 35 years later still so afraid of slowing down?

The Applesauce Incident

I ate applesauce with a big metal spoon

clanking the glass jar. It felt like candy

sliding down into my eight-year-old belly.

When my mother caught me

she screamed and tossed the jar

against the kitchen wall.

It broke just like her whiskey bottles did.

Even now,

when I eat applesauce

I smell alcohol.

4th of July

He's lighting the fireworks in

an empty beer bottle.

The fuse catches. He runs

back to the house, back to us

waiting to see which direction

they'll shoot. It's a ritual, every year.

The neighbors take their dog in.

We tell him not to light them.

He doesn't listen. He's shot

his fire at the house, the yard,

the tool shed and once or twice

to the sky. This time

it takes the bottle with it to the

ground, breaks it open, splashes

a little fire and flips around

like a fish on a rock where

the river's run dry.

It's the 4th of July.

Summer Reading

The summer reading list

was a huge undertaking

arranged in order

starting someplace

enchanting and

ending with 1984

and she read

them all.

On the first day

of 10th grade

she was not be

the same girl

she was when

9th grade ended.

River of No Return

That summer she

rode a boat

down the

Mississippi River.

Floated on red wine

and never


Lost Arc


he wonders if the angels

are hidden away on a distant island,

wonders if the storms sunk

the arc of rescue and all the

angelic passengers were blown away

mixed up in the revolting waves.

He wonders if God is waiting

for his people to save the angels.


We picked half dead flowers from the dumpster behind the florist. Every Sunday evening while Matt was attending that born again Christian church that held their meetings in a warehouse and didn't like us coming in due to the demons they saw us caring in on our backs. So out of respect we dug through the florist dumpster digging up fading flowers, deflating balloons, ripped ribbons and other pretty broken dying things. Then while the born agains were inside talking in tongues we decorated Matt's truck with the florist shop garbage. Every Sunday, we made it look like a funeral covered his car. And it was a lot like he had died.

God’s Good-bye

God never talked to me.

I spoke to him, every day,

from the time I was six until

the end of eleven. At twelve

I wondered why he

never spoke back.

Never even said a word.

At sixteen, still not having

heard from him, I talked

to God one last time.

"Father, you haven’t said

a single word to me.

So, I’m leaving you now.

I’ll say no more to you."

God finally said something,


Long Forgiven

You do not belong with me.

Strange ghosts, what did I do

to deserve you?

What place does the devil’s

favorite demons have here

where my heart is as wide

as Galileo’s sky?

No, not one of you, not even

the least haunting of all the evil

spirits hell has to send should

have come here beside my bed.

I have done nothing to attract

your dark attachments to my life,

done nothing to invite you to

eclipse my sweet soul.

Hell has no right to rise up

into the innocence of a child

and keep her in its fire.

What is it that let you come

to curse my little world?

What god let you in?

Have you come here knowing

as all the gods and angels know

that my heart is brave enough

to forgive you, big enough to

love even the damnedest

of all devils ever known?

Is that why you have come?

For forgiveness?

Then be gone now.

You have all been long forgiven.

Leave me to be free now.

You do not belong with me.

After The Crash

He spends the night

drowning in bad dreams

weeping at what he can

never be.

Every night the airbag and

the shattered window

wakes him abruptly.


This river leads into a stream.

If we survive the rapids

we still won’t reach

the sea.


cracked eggs frying on the

townhouse roof

we were waiting for pigeons

to deliver our dreams

Class of 2010

School of fish

never found

that expansive ocean

of endless possibilities.


got stranded

in this polluted pond.

After "Anything"

Eggshells in the omelet,

so I'm not perfect.

Tripped on a feather

from a wing

God never gave me.

Just the same,

and lately

I haven't been crawling.

Wouldn't call it steady,

but it's something,

anything, and isn't that

what we said, "Anything."

If only we knew then

what that would be.

"Anything," yeah,

that's what we said.

The Script

Pop-corn kisses

like the movie stars.

Cold skin touches

in shallow scenes.

Sound track melodies.

Motion picture moves.

Second said words.

You’re just another

empty story living

somebody else’s

script of life.

That Word

She used the word

synonym in a song.

I can’t pronounce it,

can’t sing it.

We all have one

of those words:

spaghetti, pneumonia, aluminum.

Everyone has one.

A word that

makes the mouth move like

a sore muscle unskilled

at this new athletics of

language, that makes

the lips feel foreign

She used the word

synonym in a song.

I couldn’t pronounce it.

I couldn’t sing it.

I wrote this poem

while listening to it.

The Killies

“It is mostly the cattails I am missing,” I tell him, thinking he could never understand that my innocence is sleeping in the mixing of salt and fresh waters that rise high hidden and leave low where no one but strange girls go looking to find something. I was thinking he could never understand me until he tells me that the little killies love it there, that he could never bate them the way his father did.

Rocket Boy

He was something

even the giants

didn’t have a word for.

He wasn’t, “It’s gonna be alright.”

He was, “It’s gonna be wonderful!”

Cute Candy Girl

She ate too many lollypop drops

became sticky .

Ants nibble

at her sugar-coated disguise.

She has gone to rot inside.


Can she be

inside a flame

flickering her eyes at me

burning out the air?

Her shadow's on my wall

too quick for me to keep

melting me into sleep.

I dream

of red wax

without a wicker

then I wake

to see her catch the corner

in a flash of light.

She never bothers

to notice me

burning light-lessly

in her shadow.

My fire is a cold jealousy.

Still, she's dancing

her insults across the ceiling.

And my greatest breath

is not enough to kill.


These shelves

overflow with books


I take down

a leather-bound

book, scan

a page or two

and wonder

if I also am a

skin covered book

left on the shelf


Not The Only

I'm counting angels in the sky.

Another friend died.

It's easier to count the stars

instead of tears. So, I've put

a hundred million numbers on

the heavens. My heart can't

lose the count. And there's a

billion others sitting under the

same sky, counting the angels

of every friend that's died.

Polished Words

She saw tarnished lives

and realized language is a

sort of Photoshop.

She attempts to polish

them with words.

Writes to make

the dirt shine.

April (18)

She kicked the toe of a leather shoe

against the fence, stroked his neck

and said his name was West.

She's the one that broke him in-

cracked a rib when he threw her,

brushed off the dust and got back on.

She pulled some of the grasses from

around our knees and held out

her palm to him. She said she liked

to ride him through the storm, pointed

her emptied hand towards the tree

the lightning once struck, then motioned

to me to take a seat. So, we climbed

up on the fence with a lighter and a

pack of smokes. She showed me a

better way to flick my ashes and as

I practiced, I could see, that at the time,

she was breaking in me.


You are the penthouse of life,

my friend, and the tranquil garden

where I am sometimes hidden, and

the religion that forgives me.

You are the benchmark of

certain success. With you

I know I have reach happiness.


I try to touch your hand

through the screen door of Heaven

and Earth, but we're just flies

on either side. You with your

wings and me waiting for mine.

I'm hoping I'll have enough

time here to memorize the sky

so that when I die I'll know

were the wind begins and we

can ride it back here

together again.


I wanted to scream.

Wanted to be the thunder

shaking the ground you're sleeping

in now. I just whispered your name

hoping somehow I could get through to you,

thinking that, maybe, you'd hear me now.


Your river flows through mine...

give back the flat stone we shared

with the salmon as they lay dying in

our womb…both of us knowing we

would never return to that moment

in the stream...are you still with me?

flooding this valley, tearing out the

pictures of our childhood homes.

We lived in so many.

None could hold.


I own my memories:

faint glimpses of a child's dream,

glass covers and no frames,

strange gates to withered gardens,

graveyards, church swings.

These are the things I own,

purchased out in pain,

tears, smiles, youth, and grace.

I bartered out a few regrets

for compromise.

No refunds, no exchanges.

Altered as I go.

These the things I own:

small treasures of great life,

impulse, desire.

I calculate mistakes,

keep memories, mind diaries,

guide books, road signs

to the future

that's also mine.

Becoming the Evidence

Doubt is a dangerous thing. And belief

seems to have the fantastic ability to

overcome anything. But blind faith

has never been your way.

We have always been the mathematics and

scientists. We have always needed evidence.

But in this, final, life depending challenge,

it is up to us to become the proof, the irrevocable

evidence that we are capable of success.

We must forget the doubt and forgo the faith.

We must insist that we can certainly prove

our ability to do this.

Girl’s Way To Ruling the World

Bangs never cut straight,

boys worn out jeans that

never fit her strange

girl shape.

Giggled up lunch milk

ate algebra as a snack.

By 5th grade there was no turning back,

path set, no escaping this self-calculated direction.

She didn’t want to head any other way.

She knew exactly where she was going.

Remarkable Resilient Skin

Why do the fingers forget the sensation of touch?

Why do we become untouchable masses

of misunderstandings and mistakes?

How long has it been since you reached for a hand,

a shoulder, a curve in the gentle side of a lover?

How do we become so untouchable? As if we

were withering dusty flesh that would just leave

ash on anything we touch.

Why are we sitting here becoming this dust?

We should be out dancing to music even if there is

none. We should be pulling cobwebs from each

other’s eyes and laughing in each other’s arms.

We should not be frightened particles of dust.

We are remarkable resilient skin meant to love and touch.

Plenty of Room in a Beautiful Sky

In the strange astrology of what

pretty girl is a star today, you wonder

if you have the right hair color, wonder

if your waist is thin enough to make you

part of some greater constellation

someday. You forget that the sky

is so infinite that never will there be

enough human beings to out number

the real stars in it. So, pick yourself

your own star, design your own galaxy,

and don’t worry about celebrity. The sky

is outside waiting for you to shine,

to create a constellation of your own,

even if only you and the sky knows.

The heavens have a space reserved

for you regardless of hair style, clothes,

and looks. It is a VIP reservation in

the galaxy of perfection and your ticket

is based on exactly who you were born

to be and not on who you were told

to become. Come outside and take a seat.

There is a place for all of us in this infinitely

diverse and beautiful sky.

The Innocent One

Swirl silence for a while

and she goes like a child.

Dream swaying imagination to

extreme delight. See the smile

of the innocent one as she goes

three steps forever over the

edge of well kept secrets.

She’s been dreaming up a

scheme to take a day and a

life to a place called home.

And she goes. Where?

No one knows.

And she’s gone.

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