Living Rough


Every morning, homeless single mother,

Cardboard sign

Wild-eyed by the highway side—


Every bit helps,

God bless you.


Every afternoon, the same man stands by the I-94 ramp.

He’s been living rough—

A similar cardboard sign.


Every bit helps,

God bless you.


Maybe one car in 20 stops.


But I cannot make eye contact,

Locking the car doors, reaching for dark glasses,

Feeling my acute self-entitled guilt.


Yesterday, there was a little boy playing with his older brother

In the lounge of the homeless shelter where I work.


What brought you here?

Were you thrown away, beaten—

Or was it just too much to be in the care

Of someone who just does not care?


I’ll never know.


Through the towering bare trees,

I gaze through the God’s eye in the clouds

Hovering over the vast Midwest landscape,

Safe, in the warmth of my small kitchen.


I thought I was broke,

I thought I was beaten.

I feel the pall and pressure,

Of a nagging cold and too many bills

Too many to-do’s.


And remind myself to stop bitching.


You don’t know what living rough is, girlie.





The Final Nail

my house

First off folks, here is my signature—

Here is my name, mine, on the contract.


Susan Cossette.


With my perfect Catholic school cursive,

A new bravado, and a newly found fancy confident S—


I am me.  I am I.


Unlike the old scrawl,

That was my married name

Scribbled on so many checks and bar tabs—

For thirty years, and then finally

On the divorce decree.

Done. Done. Done.


I am 53, old enough to know better,

Yet I still maintain my Irish humor and good looks.


Well gents, guess what?

I am no one’s property,

But I have property now.

No one thought I could do this—

But I did, I did.


A job.

A house.

A yard.


The pretty park across the street,

Closets and kitchen,

And spaces for love and dreams to grow.


I will finally plant flowers, damn it.


Here is my credit.

Thirty years in the making.

It is beyond good.


Mr. Banker, here is my money.

Mine.  I earned it.

I earned this.

I deserve this.


Here is our home.

It is ours.

Here is my family.

Here is love, here is peace.


It will be a brilliant future.

Cats and dogs,

Love, weed, and laughter.


Do not mock the contraband that is me.

Today, today, is the final nail in my old life.


Blonde Terrorist

patty hearst

Picture me.

Open-legged, carbine cradled–
My shiny, steel rebel babydolll.

In front of some foreign flag,
Beret poised just so.

Yes, of course the gun is loaded.
I oiled it, and counted the ammo.

Go on, fellas–
Push me.
Take the shot.
Send it to the press.

I could rob a bank,
I could hijack a plane–
Dismantle so many lives.

What I did not tell you is this.

They locked me in a closet for 25 years,
Before I could stand here—

The bleach-blonde suburban commando.





I hid in a closet while my best friend was killed.

I texted my sister.


I love you. 

Tell Mom and Dad to get here, fast.

I don’t want to die.


Thirty of us in that closet,

Paper plates for fans.

This is not supposed to happen here.


The police came.

If you had a bag, you had to drop it in a pile.

Then, three questions—


Are you hurt?

Did you capture anything on phone or video?

Do know anything about the gunman?


After that they let us leave.


The guns have changed,

Our laws have not.


Your rights to own a gun—

All I hear is mine, mine mine.

You can buy as many guns as you want at one time.

A kid in a candy store of blood.


I am not going to be the dead kid you read about in textbooks.


We don’t want thoughts and prayers—

We want policy and change.


You, President.

I dare you.

Tell me to my face—


It was a terrible tragedy,

It should never have happened.


How much money did you get from the National Rifle Association?

You want to know something?

It doesn’t matter, because I already know.


Thirty million dollars.

Divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States

In the one and one-half months in 2018 alone,

That’s $5,800.


Is that how much we are worth to you?

Shame on you.


There is no hashtag for our grief.




 Grief, I have ignored you for too long.


Not a person.


But shapeless and heavy,

Thick sticky fog—

I buried your clots deep

In my synapses, and soul.


If you don’t exist, I simply won’t feel your pain.


I will smile and go through the motions…

I work, I clean,

I will paint a rosy smile on my face and cheeks.

It lasts all day, and I dance into the night.


No one knows, no one knows.


But oh Grief, you won’t let me deny you.

You leech out of my pores.

You haunt my dreams.

Taunt me with memories of all I lost and left behind.


You make me categorize—

The cats, my son’s old childhood fingerpaintings,

My friends.


My reputation.


My sister tells me—


Allow yourself to mourn,

Let yourself feel.


Oh black-souled grief—

I reach through the blank black mist that is you,

Wring your black syrup into thick puddles,

Into the tub,

The tap running

And send you swirling down the drain.


Clean, like the blood from my fresh-shaved legs.



Sabbath Prayer

for Phyllis and Herm



“Days pass, years vanish. And we walk sightless among miracles.


The clothes dryer steam melts the ice on the deck—

Windy wafts of snow blow from the neighbor’s roof,

Swirling, a misty cascade through the knotted threads of trees

Towering toward the vast midwestern sky.


The orange cat curls on the table beside me while I write.

He knows he shouldn’t but does so anyway.

He tries to drink my tea.


I am me, I am me . . .


I sleep, I dream—

Disjointed snapshots from long days,

And of those long past.

Each equal in their immediacy.


What does any of this matter?


I feel it lately, this passage of time.

I wait for those moments,

Look for signs of the divine—


The sadness over what I have left behind

Is a measure of my love.


I realize—

Every day has become a minor miracle of sorts.





Stable Genius

Stable Genius

Now that Russian collusion,

After one year of intense study,

Has proven to be a total hoax

On the American public—

The Democrats and their lapdogs—

The Fake News Mainstream Media,

Take out the old Ronald Reagan playbook,

Screaming mental stability and intelligence.


Actually, throughout my life,

My two greatest assets have been mental stability

And being, like, really smart.



Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard

And, as everyone knows, went down in flames.

I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star.

to President of the United States

(on my first try).


I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius.

And a very stable genius at that!