Archive for the Wendy Rainey Category

Four Poems by Wendy Rainey

Posted in Wendy Rainey with tags on June 13, 2022 by Scot



Party Girl

The cops knew her,
so did all the bartenders.
Dude with a ghetto blaster
said she had mad flava.
Even the punks
thought she was hardcore.
A Hell’s Angel
held the door open for her
as she walked into the Honey Bucket,
took a seat at the bar,
slapping down a twenty.
“What’s a girl gotta do ta get a gin ‘n tonic?”
she winked at the bartender,
taking out a cigarette.
“Got a light, fella?”

She had been a party girl
with an appetite for boys,
and the beach.
Perfect figure,
shapely legs,
bobbed hair that moved with the breeze, baby.

So, at ninety-six
why would it be any different?
Wiggling into her designer track suit
and matching pair of Nikes,
she waited until the coast was clear.
Then kissed off Willowbrook Assisted Living.
Blew the coop, doll.
Slipped out the back
like it was a speakeasy
about to be raided.

Strutting through Long Beach
under a full moon,
she knew every street by heart.
Remembered every boy
she had kissed
on every corner from Willow
to The Pike.
It was etched in her brain, toots.

My grandmother,
the party girl,
the bees knees,
the beach town cutie
with sand between her sunburned cheeks.
And I don’t mean the cheeks on her face,

The Girl in the Cubicle Next to Mine

Hey girl,
she called from the cubicle next to mine.
I wheeled my chair around, facing her.
So how did the apartment hunting go last night?
Freaktarded, she yawned,
rolling her eyes,
brushing her long, brown hair.
A middle-aged manager breezed by her desk,
scanning her body.
She flipped him the bird
behind his back,
then gave the security camera above our cubicles
the middle finger as well.

I knew she had gone to Eagle Rock
the previous night
to check out an online ad:
“Retired Postal Worker
Seeks Roommate. Nice house.
Quiet neighborhood.”
She had expected there to be
an actual room,
but when Postal opened the door
he led her through a hallway,
to a little house
he’d built from plywood
in the middle of his rec room.
It was like a fuckin’ dollhouse,
the girl said.
There was a birdbath
instead of a shower.
He showed me how you pushed a button
and water would spurt from the floor.
And there were all these plastic bluebirds
with fuckin’ cameras in their eyes.

Fuck sake,
how did you get out of there?
She pulled a pink stun gun
from her bag,
tossed it into my lap.
I picked it up, held it in my hand.

Damn, I hope you called the cops,
I said to her.
didn’t have to.
Fatty went down on his own, she scoffed,
examining her rhinestone nails.
She grabbed an emery board from her purse.
He freaked when he saw my zapper.
Had a coronary or somethin’.
She took a sip
of her Diet Pepsi.
I left him on the floor,
grabbing his chest.
He was all like, hey babe,
how ‘bout we negotiate cheaper rent?
She blew on her nails
filling the air with dust.
So, you wanna go to McDonald’s for lunch?



My Hippie Teacher

Hey man, I had a hippie teacher in school.
He had wild curly hair and a beard,
scooped tuna fish straight out of the can with Rye Krisp,
never used mayo,
hated soggy Wonder Bread.

One day my hippie teacher said,
Everyone write your name on a piece of paper
and pin it to your shirt.
Every time someone puts you down,
every time someone has a laugh at your expense,
every time someone makes you feel less than who you are,
tear off a little piece of your name
and throw it on the ground.
Why do we have to do this? someone whined.
Exactly, is all he said.
By the end of the day the carpet was littered
with our torn names.
And while I was on the floor with my classmates
throwing our mess into the trashcan,
I had an uneasy feeling about my school, my parents, my friends,
my hippie teacher,
and the condition of the entire human race.

There was a kid named Steve in our class.
He lied all the time,
even about the small things.
My hippie teacher said,
Steve, I’m going to give you another chance to tell the truth.
Don’t lie to me this time.
All year long my hippie teacher never gave up on Steve,
but Steve kept lying.
Kids were like, It isn’t cool to lie, Steve!
Just be real with us, dude.
Steve whipped his head around to face the class,
Everyone lies.
You’re all a bunch of liars!
Sometimes I think I have an guy named Steve
inside of me.
Sometimes I say to myself,
Steve, I’m going to give you another chance to tell the truth.
Just be yourself, man,
and don’t lie to me this time.

My hippie teacher
read The Gettysburg Address to us one afternoon.
I liked it so much I memorized it.
Sometimes even now I wonder,
Where is our battlefield?
Where is the consecrated ground?
What is our unfinished work?
What happens if the government of the people,
for the people,
by the people,
perishes from the earth?
How then, shall we hallow our filth?

My hippie teacher appeared in class one day
clean shaven
with a short haircut.
We could only stare as she sat at his desk facing us.
Someone started to laugh,
then the whole class broke into laughter.
He motioned for us to quiet down.
Running his hands through his new precision cut
and across his freshly shaven face, he said,
I’m smooth on the outside now, kids,
but I’ll always be hairy on the inside.

I had a hippie teacher in school, man.
He painted a mural of an upside down oak tree
on the classroom wall.
It was a long time ago,
but sometimes I still close my eyes
and visualize that upside down tree
floating in the air.
Its roots are reaching for the sky.
Its leaves are falling in the dirt.
And I am falling
onto this planet,
this battlefield,
this consecrated ground,
where I am still searching for my torn name,
my bucket of lies,
and my smooth,
freshly shaven heart.



The Ghost of Stephanie

Stephanie had spooky eyes.
Sometimes when I looked at her
I saw a mouth stitched shut
with barbed wire.
One afternoon,
in Mrs. Tewinkle’s third grade class,
I noticed Stephanie sitting in a puddle
of her own pee.
Her body trembling.
Her hands covering her face.
I watched as the liquid dripped from the chair
to the floor.
I raised my hand
just for a moment
then put it down.
A girl, caught wearing her mother’s makeup that morning,
giggled and pointed at her.
Todd, who was in my catechism class,
pinched his nostrils together,
pretending to pass out.
Donna, the class clown,
told Stephanie she’d better wear Pampers to school
from now on.
Mrs. T’s wrinkled face loomed over Stephanie.
Her shrill voice rose above the crescendoing laughter.
Stephanie, shivering, rose from her pee-filled chair
and silently made the walk of shame
to the nurses office,
tears falling down her face.

Sometimes when I’m in a room
filled with God’s children,
their faces beaming with light,
I imagine the ghost of Stephanie
floating above their heads,
golden liquid falling on their hair
like a warm baptismal rain.
Their heads thrown back,
swallowing all the guilt and the shame.
The pee and the tears
cleansing them,
purifying them,
bringing her back home again.
Bringing Stephanie back to grace.



Wendy Rainey is author of Hollywood Church: Short Stories and Poems and Girl On The Highway. She is a contributing poetry editor on Chiron Review. Her poetry has appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Trailer Park Quarterly, Misfit Magazine and beyond. She is a 2022 recipient of the Annie Menebroker Poetry Award, and a runner-up in the 2022 Angela Consolo Mankiewicz Poetry Prize. She studied poetry with Jack Grapes in Los Angeles and creative writing with Gerald Locklin at California State University, Long Beach.

Four Poems by Wendy Rainey

Posted in Wendy Rainey with tags on June 25, 2020 by Scot


Thank you, woman in the dented Buick,
pulling up to me
in the lot at Stater Bros. Market,
as I was tying a bandana around my face.
Your braids piled high in a colorful scarf,
pulling a pair of latex gloves
from a diaper bag,
handing them to me out your window.
“Ya might want these.”

The rest of the day
I thought about the dark circles
under your eyes,
the photos of your daughter
on your dashboard,
and the way the sun
caught the gems in your dangling earrings,
making them sparkle
and shine.


Daily Constitutional

She’s hunched over like a U-turn,
pushing her walker
down the deserted boardwalk.
Wrap around sunglasses,
pimped hoodie,
bling sweats,
polka-dot Nike’s
with glittering soles.
I adjust her mask,
grab another from my bag,
pull the straps over my head,
sunglasses covering
the rest of my face.

We walk past empty restaurants
and silent bars.
A congregation of gulls
have taken over the patio
of a popular fish joint.
She waves me over,
pointing at a tattooed man
in his underwear,
sprawled on a table,snoring.
I shake my head,
“Not my type, Margaret.”
The boats on the marina are still,
except for a yacht
blasting Margaritaville.
The smell of pot
hangs on the breeze.

A young couple approaches,
wearing backpacks,
bandanas covering their faces.
Spotting us,
they turn around,
disappear into the mist
rolling in from the ocean.

I look at my watch,
“Time for your pill, Marge.”
She grabs the prescription bottle from my hand,
tosses it over the railing,
pulls off her mask,
drops it in the sand.
“How ‘bout a cigarette instead?”

We sit on a bench facing the harbor.
The sun is a flaming orange ball
sinking into the ocean.
“My husband and I used to park the Eldorado
in that lot,
watch the sunset,
and screw for hours.”
Smiling, she takes a drag from her smoke.
“He had the windows tinted
so no one could see us.”

A flock of Canada Geese flies over our heads
in “V” formation.
The squawking so loud
we can barely hear our own shrieks.
Gaping, we watch them fly
into the fire ball,
escaping into a blood red sky.


Hoarder’s Room of Shame

Had two shots of whiskey at 8:00 am
before waiting in line half an hour
to buy tuna and beans at Target.
Couldn’t wait to get home
and stack the cans in my dark little room.
My hoarder’s room of shame.
Alphabetized the beans,
built a castle
with water bottles
and toilet paper
next to the Campbell’s soup installation.
Couldn’t help myself,
took out my secret bottle of hand sanitizer,
unscrewed the top,
and inhaled the “Mountain Breeze.”
Nearly wet myself
when I scored a 40 lb bag of brown rice at Costco.
Dragged it into my den of degradation,
savoring the heftiness of my prize.

Watched the news last night.
Crops tilled under,
vats of raw milk poured down the drain,
pig killers infected,
processing plants closing.
People lined up
for twelve hours
in their cars
at food banks
that run out of food.
Nursing homes hiding bodies
in sheds.
Skating rinks turned into
And I’m thinking I should’ve grabbed
that last flat of pork chops
at the market yesterday.

I fell asleep in my hovel of fear
and deprivation.
Dreamt about animal flesh
roasting in fire
inside of a pit
that led to a secret tunnel
connected to my hoarder’s room of shame.

Woke up to CNN blaring on the tube.
Between Cialis commercials
and death toll reports,
are plugs thanking
the essential workers.
No one gave a damn
about grocery store clerks,
bus drivers,
postal workers,
a month ago.
But now the people
who risk their lives
by going to their low-paying jobs,
are heroes,
while the rest of us
sit on the couch,
streaming Tiger King.

From my palace of toilet paper
and beans,
I watch crowds of people clapping
and cheering from balconies
all over the world.
A nurse on Zoom is shaking and crying.
“We’re all in this together”
the anchorman says,
his white teeth gleaming.
But thousands die alone everyday.
The poor are dying alone.
The old are dying alone.
The nursing home staff are dying alone.
Even doctors
who drive $100,000 sports cars
are dying alone.

I scan the headlines:
This is not the apocalypse
I had hoped for.
Retreating into my echo chamber of rage
and doom,
I am counting the bottles of Jack Daniels
I bought at Costco,
stacking them next to
the stun gun,
the pepper spray,
and the baseball bat.

In my cave of foreboding,
my little hole of dread,
I fall asleep on a mountain
of triple-ply toilet paper,
dreaming about what will happen next
when the thin veil of civility
is finally flushed away.


Real Men Don’t Wear Masks

The world pities us,
and saddled
with a cheap grifter
spreading a deadly virus.

Odd that a germophobe
who perpetually
washes his hands,
hates coughing,
has been on a campaign for years
to stop hand shaking,
would refuse to wear a mask
in the thick of a global pandemic.

Why the mixed messages?
Because real men take risks.
Real men revolt.
Real men are rugged individuals.
The rules do not apply to real men
-at least not the white ones-
Real men don’t wear masks.

Not to mention
his campaign promises,
infantile gibberish
about sweeping the country
of people of color,
and now
the poor,
the old.

Waking up this morning,
turning on the news,
pummeled by the daily rantings
of an unhinged derelict
tweeting conspiracy theories,
tantrums and quackery.

Unnerved at the grocery store
to see half the consumers
without masks.
Two men in a brawl
when one of their wives
asks the other to back up in produce.
One leaves
using his bandana to wipe the blood
streaming down his nose,
while the other screeches his pickup
throughthe parking lot,
bare-faced, fist shaking,
an American flag on his bumper.

Rattled at work
while rolling a wheelchair patient
throughher beach neighborhood.
A block party in progress.
Blonde hair and freckles laughing in the sunshine.
Tanned torsos,
barbequed chicken,
and volleyball in the street.
Pandemic?What pandemic, dude?

Fell asleep
in front of the tube.
Dreamt of a bug
invading host bodies,
multiplying and duplicating.
Its fanged mouths
suckling brains,
noshingon flesh.
Its tentacles milking scrotums,
invading vulvas,
starving hearts.

Woke up at midnight
to a special report.
Newscaster looking into the teleprompter,
“The world has loved, hated,
envied us.
And for the first time in history
the world pities us.
The world pities us.”

Three Poems by Wendy Rainey

Posted in Wendy Rainey with tags on November 30, 2019 by Scot

Apartment 2F

I awoke to low, guttural groaning,
splitting into a duet of howling coyotes,
then stern commands
to “spank it,”
“squeeze it,”
and “giddy-up, bastard.”
A little girl voice
begged “Daddy” to suck her toes.
I looked at the clock.
It was 2:46 AM.
Continue reading

Three Poems by Wendy Rainey

Posted in Wendy Rainey on October 23, 2017 by Scot

What I know about my Stepfather

When I was ten
I found his scuba gear,
his hang glider,
and his saxophone,
in the garage.
“Why don’t you do any of these fun things
anymore, dad?”
Without skipping a beat
he told me that after he took on
four kids,
a wife,
a dog,
two cats,
and a mortgage,
that was about as much fucking fun
as he could handle.



Where did you go, Joyce Finklestein?

I dreamed of you last night, Joyce.
You were standing on the grass between the jungle gym
and the Jacaranda tree,
in that coat with the dirty sleeves.
Some boys were playing catch with your beret.
Laughing and screaming,
the two Brendas shoved you back and forth,
until you fell to the ground.
You got up,
but they knocked you down again,
so you got on your back,
and kicked at them
with your patent leather shoes.
I ran over to help you,
but you were spinning on your back by then,
kicking at Tammy and Kimberly,
who were now turning away from you
and descending on me.
Their pig tails whipped through the air
as they pushed me to the grass.
I stood up,
balled my fist,
and smashed it into their flowered dresses.

Sometimes I think of you, Joyce,
when I’m trying to get home on the 405.
You sat at the desk next to mine.
You wore a plastic patch over your left eye
that clipped onto your glasses.
You had a slight lisp,
and on occasion you stuttered,
but when you spoke
kids turned around in their chairs and listened.
Mr. Wadinski stapled the John Lennon poster
you brought to class
on the board near our desks.
The word IMAGINE floated above your head.

I can’t remember the day you moved away,
but I remember sitting with you on the floor of your parent’s livingroom,
watching The World at War.
Your father came in with his tumbler of Cutty Sark and changed the channel.
He didn’t want us to see the footage of the prisoners of war,
or the explosions, or the piles of dead bodies.
After he left to get more booze,
you got up and changed the channel back to The World at War.
You smiled, stretching out onto the carpet, reaching into the Frito bag,
“They never want us to know what really goes on,
but we find out anyway.”


Sweaters of the Dead

When I was young
I wore the clothes of dead people
I bought at the Salvation Army.
The sweaters of the dead
kept me warm
as I rode my bicycle through Hollywood
and waited for the bus on 4th and Grand.

One of my favorite sweaters
had a label sewn into the neck:
“A Mrs. Blanche Culpepper original
knitted for Mimi.”
I found the beaded cashmere cardigan
in a bargain bin
for $3.00.
Mrs. Blanche Culpepper,
I picture you waving to me
in a field of sunflowers
whose heads are swaying in the wind.
Their green stems are winding their way
up Fairfax Avenue.
I was lost, Blanche,
always waiting for the bus before dawn,
but kept warm in the sunflower sweater
you knitted for Mimi.

And Bobby Alvarez,
who gave your 1948 USC Varsity sweater
to the women’s auxiliary in Van Nuys?
It should have been kept in a cedar chest
filled with moth balls.
Instead I wore it to the bar every weekend.
Soaked in sweat,
and sloshed in beer.
I never got the blood splat out of the left sleeve
from the belt fight two punks had one night.
I got so drunk once
that I fell face down in the street
and got a taste of the gutter.
Sort of like the dirt you tasted
when you slid into home base
that one last time.

I remember the sad sweaters that found me,
sweaters desperate for love
and attention;
the plaid mohair
with a disintegrated condom
in an inner concealed pocket.
And the bowling
sweater belonging to Darla Baronowski
from the Tarzana Bowling League.
Her name was emblazoned in sequins across the chest.
On the back were two bowling balls
with an erect pin between them.
I wore it proudly.

There were the angora sweater sets
so soft to the touch
that strangers on the street would stroke them
without my consent.
I named them after movie stars;
Natalie Wood,
Marilyn Monroe,
Lana Turner,
and the sweater with the floating pineapples
was my Carmen Miranda.

When I was young
I rode the buses,
walked the streets,
and worked the jobs
in the sweaters of the dead.
The sweaters kept me warm.
The sweaters told me their secrets.
The sweaters listened to mine.
I see them on a circular rack in a junk shop
off of Magnolia in Burbank.
The sweaters are whispering to me.
The sweaters are reaching for me.
The sweaters are beckoning me
back home
to that bus stop on Wilshire and Fairfax
where I will always be standing alone
in the dark,
waiting for the dawn to come.