La Belle au Bois Dormant



No man ever kissed me into life.


But I awoke, clawed up,

From under the pink briar roses—

After what felt like a hundred years

Of over-salted stilted holiday meals.


Your barbs still stick in my flesh,

Passive words of indifference,

Served over dry gingered Swedish cakes and tea.


Lost in a bland suburban day dream,

Stuffed head-first in a crystal coffin.


You never knew, my eyes were never shut.

But I heard everything, I saw it all.

I could not speak,

Gagged, scratching these words on the damp glass.


Your needs, your needs,

Oh, all of your needs, scraping at me.

Mother, child, spouse.


I bleached my house.

I made it all clean.

I made my hands bleed.


I watched the hot sun,

The cold stars, the knowing moon,

They, they told me to keep going.


Beauty, it will all be over soon.

The jealous fairy’s curse will be broken.

You will, you will awaken.

You will be loved.



DNA Sketch

-for Maggie


Our double biopolymer strands coiled,

Lying in wait—

Across decades of secrets,

And countries, and long-ago things we will never know.


Two chains bound by hydrogen bonds—

Threads curling, a lacy Indian dream catcher

Of proteins and amino peptides.


Tiny gossamer threads fold into

Beautiful origami–

Pale rice paper swans.


You are not alone—

No, not anymore.


For 52 years I was an anomaly,

The only child.


A lone rubber raft, torn and patched—

Bubbling lost, a small cork in the cold sea.


I want to compare my hands to yours.

I want to look at your toes.

I want to see our grandmother’s wry Irish smile resurrected,

And hear my raucous cackle in your laugh.


What other words will I have for you?

That day, when we meet and I call you sister.

Brave Enough to Be Angry

Trump perv



“Women, you have to treat ’em like shit.”

—Donald Trump, New York magazine, November 9, 1992


I don’t have a tidy soundbite for you.

I wish I did,

But I am not a hero.


I am not a child.

I have learned to regret words spoken in anger.


But we are seething,

Beneath the surface.


How long we’ve been ignored,

Seething for those brave enough to tell the truth—

Seething for those punished for doing so.

Seething for being told we have no right to seethe at all.


You too?

Me too.


Centuries of indifference,

Tacit (and sometimes open) sanctioning of sexual harassment, abuse, assault,

We are suddenly in the midst of a cock conflagration.


Powerful men swallowed in the bonfire,

Banned from the primordial, privileged Garden of Dicks.


In the Garden of Dicks, it’s always about the dick.

You are a man, you have urges.


Oh yeah, you?

Well, me too.


In the Garden of Dicks,

Women come and go, working, serving, servicing—

Trying to earn a living wage,

Searching for a husband, a job,

Looking for venture capital or just a good time,

Seeking an advanced degree, a part in a movie.


Don’t you know who I am?


Often, we have no choice.

We enter a room and instantly know.

Oh, it’s that place.

There’s always something sweaty and unnerving in the air,

Like the men there

Have just laughed at a joke we aren’t supposed to hear.

And, eyes averted, we carry on.


In the Garden of Dicks,

There is one peculiar fear—

Loss of power, castration by other means.

Take my humiliation, please.


In the room, the women come and go,

Talking of sexual harassment.


It took me four decades,

Wandering alone and muted

To finally be brave enough to be angry.


You too?

Me too.


We arise en masse, our words jagged glass.


Susan as Sylvia. . .

Finally Free

miss havisham

Don’t let them tell you it’s not a death.

It is.


The cold stack of papers—

Signed and notarized,

Fly across the country.

The endorsements final, the money itemized.


You wait for the death.

You know it is the right thing to do.

The smiling lawyers await you too.


It is like euthanizing a pet.


You make the decision, then the appointment.

And spend the night sadly examining the old cat’s eyes—

Curled round your head on the pillow,

Rough tongue and toothless mouth

Licking those final treats from your dry palm.

There is nothing left.


Don’t let them tell you it’s not a death.

It is.


That sad fairy tale, it is done—

Cobwebs on Miss Havisham’s wedding cake

The dusty crystal awaits the wrapping and bins.


The pale bride comes loose at the seams,

A malfunctioning windup toy put out of her misery,

The wires popping out, beginning to smoke.

Rising, imploding into the crimson clouds.

Reborn, reinvented from her sins.


Don’t let them tell you it’s not a death.

It is.


You, Mother

I had to be perfect.


You, Husband

You expected me to be perfect.


You, Child

You needed me to be perfect.


You, Greek Chorus, chiding or otherwise.

Judge, judge, judge.


Look into your heart and know—

I am I, am I.


Do not think I underestimate, or forget.

It is still a death.


I am finally free,

Whatever that means.

Four Haiku

altar vessel

After Sylvia Plath


I wear this skull smile

Hidden in my black toga,

Vessel now empty.


I’ve done what I did—

The blood jet, is poetry.

You will not stop me.


My gold, beaten skin

Will not speak to God again—

I am I, am I.


I am I, not more—

Fused with the world, done.

Infinite nets, cast.






Taking to My Knee


I bow for myriad reasons,

Always my own.


Supplication, protest, personal, or otherwise—

To that over which I may

Or may not

Have control.


Genuflecting at the altar—

To worship the wheat-wafer body of Christ,

Among choking incense and magenta stained glass.


The black-clad faithful, they nod in approval—

I, the stolid girl of duty.


Then oh, she rebels.

The trap door awaits me, for the trip to hell.


I kneel at your feet—

My head on your thighs

You stroke my hair,

Following passion my mother will never understand.


I contemplate the world.

My white privilege, my cultural damage

Does not absorb

The sacred, the sacrosanct.

I am not a time bomb, awaiting implosion.

I walk the streets freely, unquestioned.


When we kneel,

It insults the John Deere hat wearing masses—

Chewing tobacco and proclaiming

They will make America great again.


What does that mean?

The collective fear curls into a boil that sings

Oh say can you see

By the dawn’s early light—


Oh America.

Oh flag, oh anthem

This is not my America.


And I bow to my knee

Not from disrespect

But to pay tribute to those betrayed

By my America.