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Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Chicago

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,

Unfamiliar.

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.

 

 

 

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Cottonwood

cottonwood

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ET

 

-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.

 

Finally.

 

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.

 

Pretty?

Me?

 

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

 

Funny how life ends up.

 

 

 

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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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Maternal Wisdom

fait

 

Be careful what you wish for—

You may just get it.

When you get it, you may not want it.

Then you live with the consequences.

Then, you will have to want it anyway.

Just saying.

 

I got it.  I make it work.

It’s not what I expected, but I will never give

Anyone the satisfaction of uttering those four words:

I told you so.

 

Don’t make that face—

It will stay that way.

The world throws its grenades.

You will scowl and glower.

You were much prettier when you were 16—

Pageboy hair, monogrammed sweater, staring wide-eyed at my camera.

Pure cipher, shackled vessel.

 

I can live with my crinkled nose scowl of disdain.

Botox fixes the lines.

A shot every six months wipes the slate clean, until the next time.

 

No one buys the cow if they can get the milk for free.

 

But what if the dude is lactose intolerant?

He was, it turned out.

Vastly intolerant of me.

So, Mama, am I off the hook?

Can I rejoin the herd unscathed and unbranded?

I took my name back.

I use it and sign it freely on every credit card receipt I can.

I am I.

 

You get more flies with honey than vinegar.

 

Work your honey, Honey.

Smile, nod, and march in line like your life depends on it.

It really does. 

You have no more second tries.

 

Every action has a reaction.

Every shard of karma you’ve hurled,

Every act of love, of hurt, of light, the decades of obligation—

It all tells you:

 

This is the final round.

You won’t fuck this up.

 

 

 

 

 

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I Was a Child of the 80s

80s me

It would have been cooler to be a child of the 60s–

When things were important, and mattered.

When folks marched on Washington

And men danced like bobble toys on the moon.

 

Instead, we got the moonwalk.

And Madonna.

Neon clothing, cocaine, Bret Easton Ellis, shoulder pads, power perfume.

 

I was a child of the 80s.

Student loan Reagan debt,

Work-study slut girl who just wanted to have fun.

 

It would have been nicer to be a child of the 60s,

Making macramé, growing organic herbs.

 

Instead, I was spoon-fed Martha Stewart.

I married up in life.

The good wife, serving thin French beans on fine china—

Dipping chocolate strawberries no one ever ate,

Including me.

 

I was a child of the 80s—

Stuffed in a corporate cubicle in my ill-fitting cheap power suit and bow foulard tie.

 

Why?

 

We sang about losing our religion,

Asked how soon is now–

And I found myself, left of center,

Walking like an Egyptian to the love shack.

 

I will rock the Casbah.

I need your tonight.

I live on a prayer.

 

My God, what a feeling.

Here I go again—

I am a child of the 80s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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cbs-sunday-morning-logo1920x1080

 

I won’t watch it any more.

 

My flesh crawls—

Recalling the growling air conditioner buzz,

The shrill cardinals in the lush garden trees,

That I shouldn’t have had that last wine but I wanted it anyway dry taste in my mouth,

The old apprehension,

And me, curled in a fetal ball under the clammy white sheets.

 

No. No. No.

 

This comforter, its cheerful sunflowers cannot protect me.

 

Sunday morning.

 

You were always up early

Puttered in the yard,

But you always returned, showered, brushed your teeth, shaved.

 

I can still smell the Listerine on your breath, the bad cologne.

The Old Spice that my father wore.

I think it was an old bottle of his.

 

Sacrilege.

I knew what was coming.

 

We watched the stories,

I pretended to be interested.

Made idle small talk.

But I always knew when CBS Sunday Morning was over

You would demand sex.

 

If you loved your family you would do this.

 

If I didn’t you were petulant for days—

Alternating between silence and taunting me in front of the child,

Or the cleaning help.

 

I did it to keep the peace.

I allowed myself to be raped,

In the name of marriage, whatever that means.

 

I always took a shower immediately after.

Washing your scent from my body

And my soul clean.

 

Finally, I saved my life and left.

And now, now

You have the audacity to call me immoral.

 

If saving my life means damning my soul

Then, yes—

I am without morals.

 

You will never touch me again.

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Expatriate

Minneapolis steam

Photograph by Cynthia Daggett

It’s another kind of homelessness—

This sense of not having a place.

 

Yes, the sheets are clean.

They are not mine.

The towels are fresh, the water hot.

There are dishes and pots that look the same,

But are not.

 

This freedom feels more immediate,

More so than wandering into the dark New England ocean at midnight,

After too much champagne—

Or dashing through airports across North America,

Rushing toward the next thrill.

 

This life has made me restless and insecure.

I’ve learned that the old tangible things are replaceable—

And not to hold on to things, or people.

 

I have learned.

 

The world doesn’t end when things don’t go as you plan.

When you’re alone,

In a strange large city,

The streets unknown,

The buildings billowing steam

Into the vast horizon, you realize—

 

The most powerful person in the room

Has the most power over you.

 

You can say otherwise.

 

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Pariah

pariah

 

Low born,

Low caste, low class.

 

I appear better from afar—

I am all scars up close.

 

My songs, the hypnotic pulse of my kinai drums,

My magic sustained the king.

He used it, transformed it into his own power.

He called me from my forest nightly,

If you must know.

 

He took and took, but never touched the sapphire center of my soul.

After, I find my way home to the hamlet,

Sing by the crackling fire—

For the weavers, poets, goldsmiths and cobblers.

They feed me warm soup in a rough pewter bowl.

 

I am Pariah—

Disinherited daughter of the earth,

I am an untouchable, but not in the way you think.

 

 

 

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