The HyperTexts

Reta Lorraine Bowen Taylor

Reta Lorraine Bowen Taylor is an American poet, storyteller, painter and artist.


I wish they’d quit showing that clip of Marilyn
in that skin tight, near nude, sequined dress
Happy Birthday Mister President
thru her breath--
it's becoming see-thru
it seems,
and Marilyn
could use a rest.
I just wish she’d be thirty-six again,
white skinned
dreamy eyed,
get the roles from Meryl and Cher--
Show ’em.

steal her image up on my shelf.
I pore over them
to touch her.
She shimmers there--
cotton candy hair.
Her skin is warm, -- melty.
Really, what it is is this:
we taste her
that’s all.
The woman had a certain flavor,
something rare--
like a white chocolate liqueur truffle,
creamy    moist     sweet    intoxicating.
We ate her up
til she stopped breathing
and then
we put her in books.

A Kiss on the Hand May Be Quite Continental
But Cold Sheets Were A Girl’s Best Friend

Now, you know, full lips are in vogue.
Collagen pouty, hellzapoppin gaudy,
eat-you-alive lips!
(Marilyn would pull hers back
in a purr of a laugh
if she knew).

I fantasize the fresh feeling of a dress
rippling against white thighs;
teasing and kissing flesh which can never
fully pretend the glory that was hers.
I know a man that for a while
claimed to own The Dress.
that one!
I wanted to ask for a private screening
of said garment, but dared not,
for fear it somehow wouldn't be
quite so splendid with the white
of her white removed,
hollow cups, and once living pleats
shaped now into only cloth.
She made those threads breathe with joy
against that flesh,
made us gasp for air
at the parting of those lips,
sent slivers of her soul into celluloid
with those simmering lids,
and there we have her still---
against her wishes.

And she left us there
in our knowing, in our wanting,
and gave us then her departure.
Hand on phone, memory to beauty,
we sucked her down into satin sheets,
till only the fiber of her being
remained tucked between
the tight white threads
of the satin sheets
of the billowing pleats
of the stop-action stills
that breathe.

The Impermanency of Skin

His name was Jonny Kennedy,
a "boy" of thirty-six when he died—
still swathed head to toe
in the bandages which covered his massive sores,
and kept what remained of his real skin, unbroken.
His mother and brother laid him out
in a small pine box he'd picked himself
and had had decorated with a picture of a tiger
and baked beans, just to give a chuckle
to those who would come to see him off.
He'd gone flying just before he died,
and bandaged head to toe,
this was no easy thing,
but, they'd strapped him in nonetheless
and done rolls in the clouds with him,
his eyes peeking out brightly
under the brim of the cap he always wore
to conceal and protect
what little bit of skin passed for a scalp
upon his small head.
Jonny's birth defect left out the
crucial ingredient in his recipe
that would connect his skin to his body,
so that in the course of his lifetime,
his was a battle to keep and contain
that which we all assume to be ours effortlessly—
our "seal," our cover, our fabric,
which so many would deface
purposefully with inks and cuts
and spikes and burns.
His hands were welded at the bones
by thirty-six years of scarring,
but he’d laughed in his wheelchair as he’d
whispered into the camera which was documenting his end.
It was a gleeful, naughty, thirty-six year old’s
inner lust just bubbling to the surface
as he’d looked down the blouse of the young actress
who’d bent down to kiss the top of his cap at his fundraiser.
And they all turned out for him, to send him off,
finally to fly free of bandages and pain,
they smiled and laughed in his memory--
the mother, the brother, the town, the world
that he had touched and honored
with his indomitable spirit.
So briefly and painfully among us—
the impermanency of skin which doomed him,
now releases him free into the clouds,
to soar there, rolling with laughter, a gleeful naughty
sprite tucked into the firmament of our skies,
free now of bandages and pain,
but not of love.

For Jonny Kennedy, born with a rare skin disorder that caused his skin to blister and fall off, covering him with sores his whole life, until he developed skin cancer and died at the age of 36. He started a charity for the disorder called D.E.B.R.A. for the disorder called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. His story was told on The Learning Channel (TLC) as "The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off".


He’s 90 now
and he’s held more shoes in his hands than
all the movie stars combined
keep lined up in their climate controlled closets

He’s permanently bent at the waist now
from the 80 years of
rubbing the black and brown polishes into the leathers
he has worked for so long in his now leathery hands
and he holds these out to the cameras
what 80 years of scrubbing away
the dirt and debris from others’ feet can do

He is not bitter—
his hands are a trophy to him
glory from hard work fulfilled
never begging from others, but earning every dime

He holds his head up proudly
a bright smile of accomplishment
splits his face wide open
his eyes dancing like glitter
like those shoes from all those feet
must surely do
along the boardwalks and the glossy hardwoods
reflecting his pride up from the dance floor

He admires his work
at it glides over the sleek surfaces, gravity-less—
caught spinning from the ceiling
in the mirrored rotating ball

He slides along with the beat, there too
in the microscopic sworls he has created
he kicks his heels with them in their every step
admiring where he has been, and where he’s going.

HE shines
—a shining star.

No Religion

No habits or ancient books or candles
no prayers
or baptismals
get me through my day
light a candle
it is
to inhale the wax
covering over burnt burgers
and Sunday is all the same to me
as every other.

In some little ways
it makes it hard for me
when holidays come round
(especially Christmas)
and I bring my old tree out again from the garage
(déjà vu’s of childhoods)
and plug it in
twinkling and blue
but I don’t place gifts beneath it
or hold hands in prayer
but I do sing in the shower
pah-ruh-pa-pa-pumming to the little drummer boy
with a lump in my throat
over the sweet and tender image
he implants there in my mind
which brings to memory
I guess
the sons now grown
who no longer need a Christmas tree
or presents boxed and wrapped and tied with love
and signed “From Santa.”

no religion here
It even bothers me
each time I sneeze in public
and some total stranger “blesses” me
after I have spent my whole life trying not to be blessed
running too from my father’s abandoned religion
and even after he brought me there to get dunked
in someone else’s white long gown
(see-through when wet)
as I climbed out of the water
and up the short steps
and the preacher (or whatever he was)
stayed behind there
still in water to his waist
waiting for some other little girl
in a borrowed white see-through gown
to dunk
(against her will)
even after all of that
I shun religion religiously

when I lay dying (even several times)
I shrugged my shoulders
in acceptance
to my fate
without sudden sniveling
or begging to get into The Pearly Gates
I had earned my slot in Hell
and so
why fight it
no hypocrite here

my dad’s buried somewhere
or not
asking for no flowers or prayers
same as me
no “blessings” please
I inherit his abandonment of religion
slam the door in its face
as bombs blow arms from children
on the other side of the world
and women are raped by whole families
seeking revenge for their impurity
all in the name of Allah

My Father’s cast aside Mormonism
chased him all the way to California
from Utah
when he was 14
and tried now and again to recapture him
and claim him from the bottle
to no avail
and I?
I fling the last ashes of his religion
into the desert winds
and follow them someday too myself
leaving the fake Christmas tree to my sons
wrapped and bound in a blue plastic tarp
on its side in my garage


but for now
I fight the war alone
in the desert,
in the bathtub (belting out the drummer boy)
with my fake Christmas tree in the hot dark garage
beneath my floor
and my sons in another town
lighting candles after burnt burgers maybe too
and I burn a few of them myself
out here
sprinkling the black pepper liberally
pulling the tickle from the deepest recesses of my nose
and sneeze in peace joyously
without blessings

me and my drum.


God, she was beautiful!
A red-haired goddess, circa 1959.
Beverly, my half-sister, the perfect woman.
Long-legged and lean,
a heart-shaped cameo for a face.
(Oh, how I silently worshiped her!)
My nieces and nephew thought she was just
their mother.
Every Easter, she invited me there, enfolded me
into her nest, part of her brood.
I kept that toy bunny she left in my Easter basket
until it rotted from old age.
And Fourth of July?
Her yard magnificently perfumed by sulfered rockets,
damp night grass, watermelon, Chanel #5.
When I was seven, she carried me bleeding
to get my first stitches, and there was no pain
in her arms, I was weightless against
her mothering heart.
Her living room had a picture—typical 50s;
flamingos, balancing precariously in a pond
behind their framed mirrored shelves.
How I wanted to possess that!
(Maybe if I could’ve had those long-legged birds
paused for flight, she might also have been mine.)
I hear she is now being dissolved in alcohol.

You can’t have fireworks in your backyard nowadays,
and Easter baskets
come wrapped in cellophane by the thousands.
Keeping flamingos is
not allowed within the city limits.

Hold Your Tongue
(song written on Burger King napkin)

Hold your tongue
and hold me
I don’t need no more abuse
hold your tongue dear
hold it
just swallow that excuse
I’ll have no more of sadness
and threats to cut me loose

So Hold your tongue
and hold me
and rock me ’gainst your chest
stroke my long hair gently
and don’t hurt me like the rest
I won’t need no more protection
with arms so strong and warm
don’t need no introspection
cause you’ll never do me harm

Just hold me baby
hold me
rock me ’gainst your cozy chest
tell me baby, tell me
I’m the one you love the best

Yeah, hold your tongue
and hold me
I don’t need no more abuse
hold your tongue dear
hold it
just swallow that excuse
I’ll have no more of sadness
and threats to cut me loose

We’re in this thing together
and together holds no shame
together stops the sadness
together blocks the pain
so lean against me gently
and stroke my long red hair
cause together we can make it
together we’ll get there
say you’ll have no more of sadness
you don’t need to walk away
we’re safer here together
closer to it every day
the weeks turn into years
my love
with time this will be clear:
a love will stay in kindness
a love will shrink in fear

So hold your tongue
and hold me
I don’t need no more abuse
hold your tongue dear
hold it
just swallow that excuse
I’ll have no more of sadness
and threats to cut me loose

I don’t need no introspection
cause you'll never do me harm
I don’t need no more protection
from arms so safe and warm
so lean against me gently
and stroke my long red hair
cause together we can make it
together we’ll get there
hold me baby
hold me
in love there is no shame
rock me baby
rock me
let love erase the pain.

The HyperTexts