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JJ Niland

-For the 15 of us who share genetic matter

Gramma Gertie served tea in Irish porcelain,
The late afternoon sun kissed the white lace sheers—

Painted rosebuds touched our noses over the scent of Earl Grey,

And just a touch of whisky for her.

 

But our corner of heaven will be throwing beer cans at the Puritans.

 

J.J. Niland and his brother made fine Irish glass.

Not crystal, but solid and sparkling.

Sold at Tiffany’s, luxury for the masses.

Far from County Roscommon.
I imagine he pours my wine.

Sparkling silver and mahgony,

Parlor tapestries hung heavy

Here, daughter of Ireland—

Drink, and know from where you came.

But our corner of heaven will be throwing beer cans at the Puritans.

 

Father Jimmy shoots whiskey and dances like an Egyptian on the table.

And when the band breaks, he takes my confession—

God, the Father of mercies,

Through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself

Sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins

Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.

Now don’t get caught tossing beer cans, my child.

 

Oh, the extended threads of you all—
We make words, films, music and tea.

We drink wine and whisky.

We have compared fingers and toes—
Separated for years, discovering they are the same.

James Niland, in your factory—
Taking your family across the sea,
Blowing glass, making your art,
White-hot glowing bulbs paved the way for ours.

We are all made of stars and Glenlevit and dreams.
Our corner of heaven will be throwing beer cans at the Puritans.

 

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Mojo Boots

mojo boots

Yesterday, I got me some mojo boots.

Leopard print, with a bad-ass heel.

They have soles that don’t slip in the Minnesota snow.

 

Score.

 

I walk a little prouder,

Talk a little louder—

Me, and my mojo boots.

 

My boyfriend says Lieutenant Uhuru had a similar pair on Star Trek—

Except hers were black, not leopard.

 

I will conquer the world in my mojo boots.

That new job will be mine—

My life will be fine.

I am almost 54, but that does not matter.

I got me some mojo boots.

 

I won’t be worrying about money,

Shopping at the dollar store.

I will have someone to clean my floors.

 

I will slide into middle age.

Unbridled.

Unabashed.

Unashamed.

Unafraid.

 

Best part?

Sears is going out of business and I got my mojo online for 15 bucks.

 

 

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Boys Will Be Boys

schs

I saw what I saw.

And I heard what I heard.

 

If you don’t like the truth,

You can always ignore or bully me.

That was always your modus operandi.

You girl, you will comply and agree.

 

But I saw it.

I saw you.

 

It was Halloween dress up day for school—

Wear a costume,

Pay 50 cents, the money goes to charity.

 

I saw a dozen Irish Catholic boys, dressed in white sheets and hoods.

Chasing their African American teammate down the hall.

 

Rodney, he was dressed as a sharecropper.

Then there was fire.

A lit cross.

I saw it implode.

 

But no one was suspended, or benched—

After all, boys will be boys.

And our football boys were the best in the state.

Can’t jeopardize that, can we?

 

I could have said something.

But I didn’t.

I was afraid.

Who was I to bring down the jock aristocracy?

Who was I to challenge the cheerleaders,

And the alumni donors?

 

Two of my best friends slept with football players at a keg party,

And spent two more years being ridiculed.

They wanted to fit in, be loved.

I bet their names are still in sharpie marker

On the bathroom wall, 30 years later.

 

My gay friend,

He got a perm and was stuffed in his own locker

All, in a 48-hour period.

He relented, let his hair go straight

And went to Brooks Brothers.

 

Boys will be boys.

Sweaty and hormonal,

Cruel pack.

This absence of decency

Obscene.

 

Rape culture.

Obscene.

 

 

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Joyride

loop the loop

 

I’ve flown before, but never been the pilot.

 

Wedged into a small economy-class seat,

Eating tiny bags of salty peanuts,

Anesthetized from small plastic bottles of chardonnay in a plastic cup—

I regarded the clouds with indifference,

While the men in the cockpit dictated my safe ascent, and descent.

 

After three glasses of wine it hits me—

Cockpit.

A sealed control room of men.

I laugh sadly.

Don’t they let women fly?

 

I didn’t know what to expect when I boarded the plane.

I’ve flown before but never been the pilot.

 

It was time—

They didn’t see it coming.

It was wrong.

I knew it was wrong,

But I did it anyway.

 

It was easier than I thought.

I became a hijacker.

Once you cross that line,

There’s no changing your mind.

 

I didn’t know what to expect when I boarded the plane.

I’ve flown before but now I am the pilot.

 

I got that bird’s nose up,

Gasping at the exhilaration of the speed, the sudden lift.

I was not afraid of you, or them, or anyone—

Not even when they scrambled the fighter jets,

Not even when the air traffic controller tried to talk me down.

I swirled and circled,

Did loop the loops and barrel rolls.

 

Ladies, gentlemen, this is not an air show.

This is the real deal.

 

There were a lot of people that cared for me—

It’s going to disappoint them.

I apologize,

But I’m just a broken girl.

Got a few screws loose, I guess.

Never really knew it until now.

 

The fuel and the funds will run low,

But I recite poems aloud.

And know

The flight recorder captures every word.

 

They will be found.

Smoking, hissing, crackling,

Rising through the sunlit leaves—

Amidst the smoldering wreckage of my joyride.

 

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Darien 06820

darien

 

The place I thought always wanted,

The girl I always wanted to be—

Then worked 30 years to flee.

 

Plotting, ticking the days,

Until my small white fingers bled,

Scratching on the wainscot walls—

 

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

 

Be careful what you wish for.

 

Oh Darien, my 16-year old eyes found you perfect,

Almost divine.

Everyone went to perfect schools, had perfect clothing,

 

There was no worrying about mortgages,

Being a scholarship student.

Darien girls were not molested by their cousins,

Then forced to go, smiling into the world.

 

Your fathers wore blue blazers,

Khakis on the weekend, with golf shirts.

 

Darien, you had landscapers.

I had my father, mowing the lawn on his one day off.

I handed him a cold Budweiser in the can when he finished.

We tossed a ball in the yard,

Even though I was

Abysmal at sports.

 

He dressed for my prom dates,

For the obligatory Polaroids.

Still, not quite right.

Not Darien.

I smiled stiffly,

Too thin, too tan in my bargain dress.

 

I am sorry Daddy.

I was ashamed of you, the old car in the yard,

My small pink house,

And where I came from.

Stamford, the wrong side of the tracks.

 

Darien, you were clean, respectful–

So I thought.

I had to get to you somehow.

 

I did, but the cracks in the façade came, in time.

 

Loveless marriages,

The racism, overdoses,

Bulimia, domestic abuse,

Then the suicides—

All brushed under the plush Persian rugs.

The sunlight through the white French windows

Will never not shine on any of it.

The maids never whisper the truth.

 

Ever.

 

But I do,

Now.

 

My son,

You’ve outgrown it,

Taken all you can from Darien.

 

You no longer need it.

Get out while you can.

 

 

 

 

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The Final Nail

my house

First off folks, here is my signature—

Here is my name, mine, on the contract.

 

Susan Cossette.

 

With my perfect Catholic school cursive,

A new bravado, and a newly found fancy confident S—

 

I am me.  I am I.

 

Unlike the old scrawl,

That was my married name

Scribbled on so many checks and bar tabs—

For thirty years, and then finally

On the divorce decree.

Done. Done. Done.

 

I am 53, old enough to know better,

Yet I still maintain my Irish humor and good looks.

 

Well gents, guess what?

I am no one’s property,

But I have property now.

No one thought I could do this—

But I did, I did.

 

A job.

A house.

A yard.

 

The pretty park across the street,

Closets and kitchen,

And spaces for love and dreams to grow.

 

I will finally plant flowers, damn it.

 

Here is my credit.

Thirty years in the making.

It is beyond good.

 

Mr. Banker, here is my money.

Mine.  I earned it.

I earned this.

I deserve this.

 

Here is our home.

It is ours.

Here is my family.

Here is love, here is peace.

 

It will be a brilliant future.

Cats and dogs,

Love, weed, and laughter.

 

Do not mock the contraband that is me.

Today, today, is the final nail in my old life.

 

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Blonde Terrorist

patty hearst

Picture me.

Open-legged, carbine cradled–
My shiny, steel rebel babydolll.

Indignant,
In front of some foreign flag,
Beret poised just so.

Yes, of course the gun is loaded.
I oiled it, and counted the ammo.

Go on, fellas–
Push me.
Take the shot.
Send it to the press.

I could rob a bank,
I could hijack a plane–
Dismantle so many lives.

What I did not tell you is this.

They locked me in a closet for 25 years,
Before I could stand here—

Behold,
The bleach-blonde suburban commando.

 

 

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