I was one of the boys.

I dropped acid with Timothy Leary.

Ginsberg hit me up for weed, Kerouac for wine and typing paper.

I put stars in my hair,

Spoke golden truths from other planets—

Buddhist monks chanted my poems like sacred wisdom.

I wanted every electric experience, the eternal wisdom of peyote and Shiva.

My words to curl, churn and blaze–

Goddess of destruction, purveyor of mercy.

In actuality, I am a middle-aged refugee from New York,

Living semi-anonymously in the Midwest.

I have a mortgage, a day job, and landscapers.

Two cats, two dogs, and boxes full of old memories,

Packed high in the garage, after the divorce.

Oh, Diane–

All I got is Muskrat Love on the Legion Hall jukebox,

Christmas music in October.

Paralysis by analysis.

My brain a thick concrete brick,

A dank mud-filled swamp.

The letters and syllables buried with old tires,

Rusty license plates, and plastic six pack rings–

And visions of what I could have been had I been born thirty years earlier.

Nobody’s done it this way before

But fuck it, that’s what I’m doing,

I’m going to risk it.

It’s not too late, Diane, right?


In the beginning was the girl.

Born of no man’s bone or flesh—

The girl was faultless.

Blonde, or red.

Her hair can be straight, curly—

Her hips have curves, or none.

She can play sports, like science.

She can love girls, or men, or both.

She can color her lips blood red,

The walls of her bedroom shell pink—

Watch the afternoon sun kiss the lace curtains,

And see that it is all good.

The girl can write poetry.

She can write code.

She can write legislation.

Our daughters paint tiny colored stones,

Leave them by the roadside,

Talismans for their sisters—

Yeah, we’re still here.

Pass it on.

In the beginning was the girl.

Physicist, poet, hooker,

Charlatan, housekeeper,

Kept woman, president, CEO.


Alpha and omega,

Pleasing to the goddess.

Naked, but not ashamed.


Orpheus in St. Paul

-for Finley

Brother Orpheus,

It has been 60 days since you dove, to the Underworld.

What news do you bring—

What revelations?

Do your stories have more power now?

Did you rescue Daniele?

Today, the October sun hangs high–

Weeks before long the Minnesota winter,

Shards of orange and crimson.

I imagine the maple leaves on the lawn are fragments of you,


Brother Orpheus, you willed me your lyre.

I am not sure what to do with it.

It should be taken to heaven by muses,

Cast among the stars.

No, it sits on my dining room table, mocking me.

Go forth, Susan. 

Do something with it.

You will play music. 

They will throw rocks and branches.

They won’t harm you.

Today, the beggar priests come calling.

I turn them away.

I am clumsy.

There is nothing I can give them.

They look for you.

The angel lands

At the end,

You could not charm the death with your music.

It took you.

It will take me.

It will take us all.

Pull Tab Poet Hustler

Come on baby, Mama needs a cut and color.

And to pay the landscaper.

I need a new living room sofa,

I need to save for retirement.

I need to pay the rent.

Come on baby, Mama needs a new life.

You ain’t gonna get that from playin’ the $1 pull tab bin, sister.

You, plastic basket of infertile cardboard—

Your brightly colored stars and smiley faces taunt me.

Just like the poetry editors—

It’s a numbers game, more out, less in.

That back table at the Legion Hall is my escape,

Free internet, cheap wine, and all the pull tab tickets you can’t afford.

All the poems you wish you can write, but can’t.

Sometimes the sympathetic gods take pity.

One hundred fifty dollars!

Shoot the moon, money burn!

The old guffers at the bar tell me to pipe down.

Blondie, I just won two bucks on 50.

Can I sit by you?

You got luck!

You can, if you spot the next round, bro.

Let me call my AA sponsor,

Before I call the gambling addiction hotline.

They’re both on speed dial.

Yeah, there’s a poem in here.


I am up all night

Watching the flickering silver lights

Of late-night TV.


You see,

I don’t do well with Turner Classic Movies.


The ladies are all too thin.

Poreless grey skin, sparkling Vaselined eyelids,

Gossamer gowns swirl without wrinkles or stains–

Menstrual or otherwise.


They all speak with Bostonian or fake put-on English accents.

What’s up with that?


I put on this rumpled ballgown.

Yellowed satin and tatty lace–

And at the last moment,

My crash helmet, the goggles, the shiny white go-go boots.


I lie down on the rails–

Wineglass and cigarette in one hand,

Reading Rimbaud with the other.


Help me, help!

(said in bad Southern dialect)


And I realize

I cannot raise

the obligatory dramatic hand

to my forehead–


My hands are full, you see.


I am paralyzed by knowing

It was not Dangerous Dick Dastardly


But myself

Who’s chained herself

To the tracks.



This is the year that has tested us all.

This is the year that has broken our hearts.

This is the year our loved ones died for no ostensible reason.


God-damned virus, could have been stopped.


No one needs to breathe their last, left alone behind glass—

Tended to by a kind heart in a hazmat suit.


This is the year I can’t get home.

Travel ban, mandatory quarantines.

I will get there, anyway.


This is the year the doctor told me I could be next—

The nurse stuck a swab in my nose, scraped my brain clean.

Like inhaling chorine water in my uncle’s pool—

It burned for an hour after.


In my mind, I was a mermaid, bobbing below the surface,

Struggling for air.


This is the year I want to be over.


This is the year I look deep inside of me.

Turn the mirror on myself, and others.


Little white girl, what are you going to do?

Talk, write….do it.

Fight, talk, write, rail.

Don’t be mute.


This is the year that breaks my heart.


Yesterday, my friend’s kid was killed in downtown Minneapolis.

37th homicide in our city this year.

It’s only July.


My heart breaks—

For her, for all of you,

Denied of the basic right to breathe, to be.


This is the year I call out the old high school bully.

Talking trash on Facebook—

He says my Muslim congresswoman was in Al Queda.

Fake news.

This is the year I call out all the bullies,

The xenophobes, the transphobes, the homophobes.


Haters, take heed—

You know who you are.


You know, we are all basically haters, at heart,

Afraid of the other, the different, the unknown.


It’s scary, right?

People different than us.

To think we might have the capacity to hate.


We do.

What do we do with it?


At the end of the day,

Black, white, we are all racist.

We are all afraid of our differences,


We keep each other at an arm’s length away.


What next?

We can stop this hate.


This year will be over soon.

We will stop.

Can we stop?


What comes of 2020 will be a bloom,

A resurrection.






-A Norman Mailer Cento


Andy, you wanted something very white and formica,

Something clean, sterile.


You didn’t want a plot,

Just a situation among situations.

You wanted a centerpiece,

A pale albatross human sacrifice–

Long legs in black tights ready to implode.


Andy, in a hundred years they will look at me,

See that incredibly cramped little set,

That tiny apartment, that kitchen—

Maybe it was eight feet wide, or six.

Photographed from a middle distance in a long, low medium shot,

It looked even narrower.

Nothing but the kitchen table, the refrigerator, the stove, the male actors and me.


The refrigerator hummed and droned on the soundtrack.


I had a dreadful cold—

One of those colds you get spending the long winter in a cold-water flat.

My voice dull, it bounced off the enamel and plastic surfaces.

I was a horror to watch.


It was every boring, dead day anyone has ever had in the city,

A time when everything wreaks of the odor of damp washcloths and old drains.


Yes, that is the way it was in the late Fifties, early Sixties in America.

That’s why they had the war in Vietnam.

That’s why the rivers became polluted.

That’s why the horror came down.

That’s why the plague was on its way.


Andy, I live my part too, only I can’t figure out what my part is in this movie.





Late May, early June—

It happens, every year.


The cottonwood drifts down,

White fluff rains from the sky, in the clear blue day—

Settling along curbsides,

Floating outside my window,

White heaps at the edge of the lawn.

God blows a kiss from his giant dandelions.


Last year, the children ate end-of-year barbeque and danced

Across Chapel Green at Breck School.

Dancing with the cottonwood,

Swirling to the Beatles, played by the teacher band.

We drank cold lemonade, ate oatmeal cookies.


Now, the whole world showers white—

And now we stay home.

Afraid, and wearing masks.


Summer came quickly,

As it always does in Minneapolis.


It is 90 degrees.

The air is thick and heavy—

A knee pressed on my neck.

I cannot breathe.


You, cottonwood tree—

Your irony is not lost on me.

You, white fluff raining from the sky

Tragic beauty,

You are all I know—

You, the white baggage piled high at my curb.










Pandemic Pizza


You, sterile cardboard carton—

Presented to me with gloved hands,

Or worse, left on the bottom concrete step of my front porch.


What wonders of mozzarella cheese and meat await inside,

For the third time this week?


I imagine you are mussels and linguine,

Lobster or scallops,

Delicate, and served with butter sauce and warm bread—

On real dishes, not paper plates.


The server pours cold pinot grigio.

We do not recoil from the diners nearby.


You, sterile cardboard carton—

There is a 50% coupon taped to your top

For my next order.



-for Andy

In my mind—

You still wear a starched pink oxford and crisp khakis.

You drive a Corvette with a vanity plate—

Your initials, ASL.

You had a second car, late-model brown sedan.

What kind of 19-year old has two cars?


I am not allowed to brush my hair in that Corvette.

Or to eat the ice cream cone you bought me at the Dairy Queen.

Vanilla, dipped in chocolate.


Yes, you were a bit of an idiot.

You admitted it.

Yes, I was worried about the sticky melt dripping down my hand.

I worried about everything back then.


In my mind—

We sit awkwardly at the movie

While the Roy Rogers charity basket passes—

In synch with the preview on the screen.

Happy trails, you crazy kids.


It was a Spielberg movie, E.T.


You held my hand, and I died a little inside—

17- year old me.

I ate buttery popcorn and drank icy orange soda.

Licked the salt off my right hand while you squeezed the other.


In my mind—

We sit on the beach at Cove Island.

Stamford, Connecticut.

You, tanned muscle lifeguard man.

Me, shy Irish girl in my brand-new Jantzen one piece,

Turquoise blue, covered the flaws only I saw.


Small breasts, wide eyes—

I was so out of my league.

You pass me a Coke from the cooler.

Cold, delicious.

I stretch my legs out on the towel and relax—

Pink frosted toenails burrow into the rough sand.




From that beach we could see Darien,

The other side of the harbor.

The rich town.

It didn’t look so different,

But it could have been a thousand miles away.

We didn’t care.


Thirty years later, we exchange memories.

You hated parties.

You liked girls in mini skirts.

I thought I was a wallflower, but you said I was pretty.





I flew into the full moon in the basket of a bike that night in 1982.


Funny how life ends up.