Archive for the ‘The girl opines’ Category


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,


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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-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.




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.





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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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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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



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 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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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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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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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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