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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

bond

 

I tried to be a Bond Girl.

Last night–

Slinky black dress, diamonds, a hint of cleavage, the bold red lip.

 

I tried to be a Bond girl,

To smile, make small talk replete with scintillating innuendo.

To smile and pose, just so.

 

I tried to be a Bond Girl.

Until my shoes hurt and my spanx made the slow roll downward.

 

It was tiring, holding my breath,

And my midsection in.

 

I left it, and the whole business of being fabulous

To the professionals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20200223_144749 (1)

 

Duke, let’s toss a ball.

 

Duke, that’s what Daddy called me.

I never knew why.

My name is Susan.

The dog was also named Duke, brown-eyed mutt shepherd collie mix.

 

When Daddy called, we both came running.

It was confusing.

 

Duke, let’s throw a ball. 

 

Daddy, I can’t throw.

I don’t like sports.

You don’t know–

I am last to be picked at kickball.

Surly kids staring me down in the schoolyard,

Me, shuffling my feet, staring at the hot asphalt.

 

Daddy, I do like figure skating, acting in plays, playing my flute, and writing stories.

 

Duke, maybe you’d like tennis lessons. 

My cousin was a national champion.

Or I can teach you to bat. 

Check out that badminton net I set up for you and your friends.

 

Daddy, you are the athlete.

Captain of every sports team in school,

Teeth knocked out playing shortstop in Tokyo, World War II.

The army didn’t fix teeth back then.

They gave you a cheap bridge at age 20.

 

We had one bathroom in our little pink house—

I stared curiously at the nicotine-stained false teeth soaking on the sinktop.

Once, I fished them out of the sparkly yellow plastic cup,

Tried them on for size.

I wanted to fit your smile into mine.

 

Daddy, high on love, low on empathy.

 

Duke, let’s toss a ball. 

Daddy, listen to this poem.

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For Finley

 

 

This is the story I am going to read at the Black Forest tonight, for Finley…

Follow

“Go forth, Susan, and run roughshod through the snow!”  Thus spake Mike Finley.

This kinda seems like the opposite of follow, but that was Finley’s advice when we were talking about this show.  I wish he was here tonight, but he can’t be and I still wish he was, so this story/rant is for him.  I love you, friend.  I know so many of you here do too.

He also advised me to tell this story without worrying about what any of you think.  I will try, but still seek your approval.  Humor me.

Anyway… I am going to tell you about some random things I learned when I went forth, got divorced, and ran roughshod to Minneapolis after my escape from Darien, CT two years ago.  If you don’t know about Darien, the 1975 Stepford Wives movie was filmed there.  The main shopping center was called “Goodwives Plaza,” where the titular river flowed to the brackish mouth of Long Island Sound.  You can still find this movie on YouTube and watch Paula Prentiss blow a gasket in the parking lot.

The 2004 Nicole Kidman sequel was filmed in nearby New Canaan, where I worked.  I auditioned to be a crowd extra—but was not tall or thin enough.  I lacked Stepfordsity.  I took offense initially, because I wanted so badly to fit in.  To follow the pack.

So, back to my much-heralded exodus.  I shall share with you, in no specific order, what my 50-year old self learned since coming to the Twin Cities:

  • Personal prounouns: My first job in the Twin Cities was raising money for runaway teens. It was a strange, 1970s homeless shelter in the heart of Uptown, on the bus line, but situated in a posh old-money neighborhood among brick and stucco mansions and streets named things like Dupont and Franklin, places I could never afford and only dream of living in.  First staff meeting, we had to introduce ourselves and announce our personal prounouns.   Fortunately, I didn’t have to go first because I had no freaking clue what anyone was talking about.  For the record, I now know I am she/her/hers.
  • Cash management: I was broke, waiting for dough from my divorce settlement, and eating the day-old donated muffins from Caribou for breakfast left in the lobby each morning.  They weren’t too awful: I learned to sort through the cellophane pile in the basket for the ones without stale sticky icing.   That first winter, I bought my a parka at Kmart when I realized my old camel hair coat didn’t cut the -20 degree weather. 50 bucks.    It has since been replaced but remains in my closet as a momento mori.
  • How to get a cat through airport security: Do NOT put his carrier near your laptop and shoes on the conveyor belt.  You must remove him, hold him securely, and walk through the screener.  You will be clawed by said cat and then patted down by nice TSA ladies in blue latex gloves.

After their latex hands confirmed I was not some crazy blonde suburban terrorist, I was sent on my way.

My big fat orange cat, Chuck, and me—we flew first class, a first for both of us.  I will never forget the rush of that flight, that lift when the wheels were up and I was hurled airborne toward Minneapolis, toward my future.  Chuck sensed I was tense and gave me his free wine while he slept under the seat.  I also ate his peanuts.

Friends, I arrived in Minneapolis in August 2017, to follow some dream I had of finding love, and being a writer.  A dream of not being someone’s wife.  Or someone’s mother, or someone’s daughter.

Friends, I walked out on my husband after 29 years of being entombed in a bland, loveless suburban nightmare.  Chuck in his carrier, and my three suitcases, off we went.  My former husband carried it all down the back stairs to the awaiting limo, and I can assure you, it was the door slam heard round Darien.  Real Hedda Gabler stuff, total Doll’s House damage.

I was not a good wife.

Then I realized.

No.

It was time to pack my life in a moving pod.

It was time to divest myself of everything.

It was time to be born anew.

Yes, I now sign “Susan Cossette” on every credit card receipt I can.  It is a minor miracle after 30 years.  While it can be terrifying, there is beauty and magic in every act of rebellion, of affirmation.

Yes, I followed the path to Minneapolis.

Yes, I have been called immoral.  Yes, I am immoral.

Yes, most of my family has nothing to do with me.  I am the untouchable pariah, my name whispered behind freshly manicured hands at holiday meals I can no longer attend.

Most of the time I do not care.  From my dining room window, I gaze at the sky, the too-tall Minnesota trees, and the park across the street and still wonder how I got here.  I bought this house.  It still blows my mind to see my name on the deed.

But here’s the question I still ask: Do we choose to follow, or not to follow, or get thrown into it—or is it all of the above?  It’s up to us to decide.

These days, I sign the deeds that will work out:  I won a meat raffle last week at the Legion Hall and made dozens of homemade meatballs for the first time in years.  I look forward to seeing butter sculptures at the State Fair this summer.  Someday, I will buy a cabin up north.

I live happily ever after.

Thank you, Finley, and thank you friends.  My name is Susan Cossette, and you have no idea how wonderful it is to say that.

 

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The Girl I Used to Be

Susan yearbook

I hated my high school teachers—

Few recognized the simple, obvious fact

That I was a genius in my own mind.

 

Instead, I was ushered through chemistry, geometry, algebra.

And failed,

Several times if you must ask.

 

I dodged volleyballs and ducked into stalls to change for gym,

Embarassed by my cheap Kmart underwear and padded bra.

I faked having my period so many times to avoid class,

They called my mother.

 

She needs a doctor,

Something’s wrong with that girl.

 

It did not help that I socially inept.

Or a prodigy, a year younger than everyone,

Or smart, really smart—

 

Or not having boobs when everyone else had them,

Or being a blue-collar girl on scholarship in a private school—

Driving my junky 1976 Malibu into the lot,

Parked alongside the Camaros and Corvettes–

The epitome of 80s pretention

.

 

When I was fifteen,

I decided to hate everyone around me—

Of course, no one noticed.

 

I was just another skinny girl in the cafeteria line,

Sexless, preppy clothes, pimples shrouded in Clearasil.

I flaunted my pretentious vocabulary,

The same way the cheerleaders paraded en masse

Down the fluorescent cinderblock halls

In tight, expensive monogrammed cashmere sweaters.

 

My words were my armor.

I read too many books and made a conscious effort

To be different.

 

It would be different, they whispered

If I forgot painting, poetry, my books

And trying so hard not to fit in.

 

Maybe, if you’re lucky

Some nice average college-bound future captain of industry

Would take you to the party on Friday.

And you will be grateful, and giggle on command.

 

I didn’t go to that party,

Or the senior prom.

It didn’t matter.

 

I watched days, then years, and decades pass.

Time is an amazing equalizer.

 

None of this matters anymore—

Except as footnote and anecdote.

 

I almost forgot the frustration.

I am so busy now and so far, far away.

 

Today, I made love three times,

Cleaned house, and filled the house with food for the week,

I created abundance—

Got a pedicure, slut blood red,

Then had the afternoon to write, and write.

 

Occasionally,

I look at the face that still sits in a gilded frame

On my mother’s mantle—

The face of that girl who used to be me.

Stiff smile, wide-eyed, impossibly tan

In a pink lace blouse, fake pearls and white linen blazer.

 

I want to give her a good bitch slap.

 

I have no tears left for her, or for any of you.

But it’s really all right.

 

She has forgiven.

She has moved on.

She no longer hates everyone.

 

She delights in her difference,

Sealed in time, smiling in approval

From behind the dusty glass,

She is pleased with us,

And the way we move.

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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.

 

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kneeling2

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.

 

 

 

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dolls house2

-after Henrik Ibsen

 

You are a child, Nora.

 

Did it amuse you to see me dancing about,

Dressing up, acting?

I passed from mother’s hand to yours.

I lived by performing tricks.

 

Little lark frisking about, nibbling macaroons—

Gambler, spendthrift,

The capricious little Capri girl.

 

A song bird must sing clear and true, with no false notes.

 

Earning my keep copying the words of others,

Well into the night.

It is wonderful to work—

I almost feel like a man.

 

Play the tarantella, dance with your tambourine,

Good little songbird—

Just . . . not so violently.

 

If your little squirrel were to beg you for something—

Would you do it?

I would skip about and play all sorts of tricks,

If you would only be nice, and kind,

I would twitter from morning till night.

 

One can retrieve her character,

If she owns the crime and takes the punishment.

 

I should so love to say

Damn it all.

Wait, I just did.

 

I drink wine for breakfast.

I shave my legs clean.

I drink in my smell and stop worrying about hell.

 

Tomorrow night, when the dance is over I shall be free.

There’s something glorious in waiting for the miracle.

 

I thank you for your forgiveness.

I will think of you,

Our child, this doll house.

 

But I have other duties, equally sacred.

I no longer believe in miracles—

Other than those I deserve.

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American Poem.jpg

A nuclear pompadour

Releases

Buried collective anger.

 

Integrity and humanity cease.

The world becomes much stranger.

 

Incandescent lies,

Breach of the fragile peace,

Fear the money changer.

 

What his billions buy,

The mouthpiece,

Of the clear and present danger.

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I don’t buy this business
About 50 being the new 40.

It’s an excuse,
When the AARP stuff shows up.

Oh cool,
I got the discount card.

I’m not old;
I am PRIVILEGED.
I am a smart shopper now.
I can get 20% off at Best Western.

But who the hell wants to see
Brad Pitt on their magazine cover?

And tell me,
Why the Cialus couple never shares a tub?

I mean, why do they bathe side by side?
In separate tubs?

Wasn’t that the purpose of Cialus,
To get rid of the separate tubs and bedrooms.

Where does all that water drain?
Where is the towel rack?
Where are their robes?

Oh my children, there’s no going gentle
Into the dermatologist’s office
For that Botox shot

It hurts.
A lot.

And when that perfect Pilates instructor
In her $100 Lululemon pants
Puts you on the rack
To get rid of your menopause midsection spread
I can assure you

That hurts too.

I will not go gladly
Into the days of elastic waist pants.
I will rage, rage against the dying of

In fact. . . .

When I am 85
I will slam a hole in the podiatrist’s wall
With my tennis ball walker.

And scream at the top of my lungs

Keith Richards rules!

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Meat Market

– a college anxiety story

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I got an F in American history for first quarter. Holy crap! If you average it the best I can hope for is a C. What the hell can I do with a C? Damn you, I just had to cross 5 schools off my list. My teacher is a dick, and geez, I am a 16 year old boy. What do I know?

Damn it, I am a 16 year old boy and I don’t have time management skills and that adult stuff. I am a kid, and I am stressed out.

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