Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category



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.



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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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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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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She Will Not Be Missed


-For Zelda Fitzgerald


Hothouse orchid, an ingenue expired past her time,

A flourescent idea that outlived itself—

Clothing a bit too tight, makeup too bright in daylight.


She was a third-rate writer,

A third-rate ballet dancer.

She was a shitty mother, and an unfaithful wife

Until she took back her life—

And blew the greenhouse windows open wide.


On Saturday, she passed away,

Smoke clogging the asylum, the sprinklers awry.

She will face final judgment.


As if she wasn’t judged enough—

While she exhaled curled spirals of cigarette smoke,

And laughed a little too loudly for everyone’s comfort.


As if she didn’t explode every bridge

She clicked across in stiff $300 shoes—

It wasn’t her fault.


Her laughter still cascades through the spray of marble fountains.

Over the crackled static of jazz

Under the watchful eyes of stern gargoyles.

The life cut short, but brilliant to see,

Dancing the last waltz in dreams.

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A Gothic Poem



Your blue leather-bound complete Shakespeare

Sits on the top shelf

Of the cherry wood bookcase in my new living room,

Far away from you, in the Midwest.


Far away from everyone.


You always wrote your name on the inside left cover of every book,

That distinct signature.

It was obliterated with black marker long ago

By an insecure now ex-husband.


I still know it was your book.

If I look closely, and turn the book just so to the light,

I still see your imprint in the cardboard,

Just not your writing, or your name.


He made me cut your image from every photo in my albums,

Goaded and dared me.


You have not forgotten him.

If you love me, you will do this.


As if slicing you from the sorority formal picture

Would dim my smile

Or make me forget.


It didn’t.

I still smile, just with a hole to the left of my head,

And your arm still curled round the shoulder of my pale blue dress.


But a hundred tiny heads of yours were thrown in with the cat litter,

And tossed down the trash chute of my first apartment.


What if I want to remember?


What he didn’t know is this.


You and I were studying for exams in the library—

1983, I think, and you got a paper cut.

I’d like to think it was from the Shakespeare, but I don’t recall.


You smeared the blood on a sheet in my spiral bound notebook,

And wrote, “My heart bleeds for you.”


I guess I saved it,

Because I just found it buried in my steamer trunk after all these years.


You are dead now,

But I do still have a piece of you—

Your DNA.



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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.



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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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.




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