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I was one of the boys.

I dropped acid with Timothy Leary.

Ginsberg hit me up for weed, Kerouac for wine and typing paper.

I put stars in my hair,

Spoke golden truths from other planets—

Buddhist monks chanted my poems like sacred wisdom.

I wanted every electric experience, the eternal wisdom of peyote and Shiva.

My words to curl, churn and blaze–

Goddess of destruction, purveyor of mercy.

In actuality, I am a middle-aged refugee from New York,

Living semi-anonymously in the Midwest.

I have a mortgage, a day job, and landscapers.

Two cats, two dogs, and boxes full of old memories,

Packed high in the garage, after the divorce.

Oh, Diane–

All I got is Muskrat Love on the Legion Hall jukebox,

Christmas music in October.

Paralysis by analysis.

My brain a thick concrete brick,

A dank mud-filled swamp.

The letters and syllables buried with old tires,

Rusty license plates, and plastic six pack rings–

And visions of what I could have been had I been born thirty years earlier.

Nobody’s done it this way before

But fuck it, that’s what I’m doing,

I’m going to risk it.

It’s not too late, Diane, right?

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In the beginning was the girl.

Born of no man’s bone or flesh—

The girl was faultless.

Blonde, or red.

Her hair can be straight, curly—

Her hips have curves, or none.

She can play sports, like science.

She can love girls, or men, or both.

She can color her lips blood red,

The walls of her bedroom shell pink—

Watch the afternoon sun kiss the lace curtains,

And see that it is all good.

The girl can write poetry.

She can write code.

She can write legislation.

Our daughters paint tiny colored stones,

Leave them by the roadside,

Talismans for their sisters—

Yeah, we’re still here.

Pass it on.

In the beginning was the girl.

Physicist, poet, hooker,

Charlatan, housekeeper,

Kept woman, president, CEO.


Alpha and omega,

Pleasing to the goddess.

Naked, but not ashamed.


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Orpheus in St. Paul

-for Finley

Brother Orpheus,

It has been 60 days since you dove, to the Underworld.

What news do you bring—

What revelations?

Do your stories have more power now?

Did you rescue Daniele?

Today, the October sun hangs high–

Weeks before long the Minnesota winter,

Shards of orange and crimson.

I imagine the maple leaves on the lawn are fragments of you,


Brother Orpheus, you willed me your lyre.

I am not sure what to do with it.

It should be taken to heaven by muses,

Cast among the stars.

No, it sits on my dining room table, mocking me.

Go forth, Susan. 

Do something with it.

You will play music. 

They will throw rocks and branches.

They won’t harm you.

Today, the beggar priests come calling.

I turn them away.

I am clumsy.

There is nothing I can give them.

They look for you.

The angel lands

At the end,

You could not charm the death with your music.

It took you.

It will take me.

It will take us all.

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Come on baby, Mama needs a cut and color.

And to pay the landscaper.

I need a new living room sofa,

I need to save for retirement.

I need to pay the rent.

Come on baby, Mama needs a new life.

You ain’t gonna get that from playin’ the $1 pull tab bin, sister.

You, plastic basket of infertile cardboard—

Your brightly colored stars and smiley faces taunt me.

Just like the poetry editors—

It’s a numbers game, more out, less in.

That back table at the Legion Hall is my escape,

Free internet, cheap wine, and all the pull tab tickets you can’t afford.

All the poems you wish you can write, but can’t.

Sometimes the sympathetic gods take pity.

One hundred fifty dollars!

Shoot the moon, money burn!

The old guffers at the bar tell me to pipe down.

Blondie, I just won two bucks on 50.

Can I sit by you?

You got luck!

You can, if you spot the next round, bro.

Let me call my AA sponsor,

Before I call the gambling addiction hotline.

They’re both on speed dial.

Yeah, there’s a poem in here.

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I am up all night

Watching the flickering silver lights

Of late-night TV.


You see,

I don’t do well with Turner Classic Movies.


The ladies are all too thin.

Poreless grey skin, sparkling Vaselined eyelids,

Gossamer gowns swirl without wrinkles or stains–

Menstrual or otherwise.


They all speak with Bostonian or fake put-on English accents.

What’s up with that?


I put on this rumpled ballgown.

Yellowed satin and tatty lace–

And at the last moment,

My crash helmet, the goggles, the shiny white go-go boots.


I lie down on the rails–

Wineglass and cigarette in one hand,

Reading Rimbaud with the other.


Help me, help!

(said in bad Southern dialect)


And I realize

I cannot raise

the obligatory dramatic hand

to my forehead–


My hands are full, you see.


I am paralyzed by knowing

It was not Dangerous Dick Dastardly


But myself

Who’s chained herself

To the tracks.


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-A Norman Mailer Cento


Andy, you wanted something very white and formica,

Something clean, sterile.


You didn’t want a plot,

Just a situation among situations.

You wanted a centerpiece,

A pale albatross human sacrifice–

Long legs in black tights ready to implode.


Andy, in a hundred years they will look at me,

See that incredibly cramped little set,

That tiny apartment, that kitchen—

Maybe it was eight feet wide, or six.

Photographed from a middle distance in a long, low medium shot,

It looked even narrower.

Nothing but the kitchen table, the refrigerator, the stove, the male actors and me.


The refrigerator hummed and droned on the soundtrack.


I had a dreadful cold—

One of those colds you get spending the long winter in a cold-water flat.

My voice dull, it bounced off the enamel and plastic surfaces.

I was a horror to watch.


It was every boring, dead day anyone has ever had in the city,

A time when everything wreaks of the odor of damp washcloths and old drains.


Yes, that is the way it was in the late Fifties, early Sixties in America.

That’s why they had the war in Vietnam.

That’s why the rivers became polluted.

That’s why the horror came down.

That’s why the plague was on its way.


Andy, I live my part too, only I can’t figure out what my part is in this movie.


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Pandemic Pizza


You, sterile cardboard carton—

Presented to me with gloved hands,

Or worse, left on the bottom concrete step of my front porch.


What wonders of mozzarella cheese and meat await inside,

For the third time this week?


I imagine you are mussels and linguine,

Lobster or scallops,

Delicate, and served with butter sauce and warm bread—

On real dishes, not paper plates.


The server pours cold pinot grigio.

We do not recoil from the diners nearby.


You, sterile cardboard carton—

There is a 50% coupon taped to your top

For my next order.

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I can’t breathe out of my nose.

Have I caught this plague?


The numbers double and triple, and double and triple again.

987 ill, 29 dead, 48 in intensive care, just in Minnesota.

More people have died this month in the metro New York area than on 9/11.

I can’t stomach the loss, reading the names of people I knew.


I am up all night, sucking dry hot air through my mouth.

I take an allergy tablet, which has caffeine.


I can’t sleep.

Brain churn.

I took two of those pills.



There are street noises–

Airplanes, neighbors leaving for work at 4 am.


My boyfriend snores, oblivious.

I wish I had his peace.


I am living in sin, whatever that means.

Alternating between chills and the heat from his core.

Damp sheets, my hair in tendrils.


Wide-eyed wild child, you were warned about hell.

Contained into yourself, with only your thoughts.

Oh, your thoughts, the whirring cars on I-94,

Static radio playing polkas and country music,

Ants on your skin for eternity.


You better like yourself, babe.

You are stuck with yourself.

You will never sleep.


You were warned about hell–

By your mother, by Father Gill,

Who taught you to pray to St. Michael the Archangel–


Be my protection against the devil,

In god we beseech you prince of the heavenly host

Cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam the world for the ruination of souls.


I take my temperature for the third time today.


I am safe, for now, still on this temporal plane.





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Tan khaki uniform,

Shiny black boots.

Neat, trim moustache—


He didn’t look much like God

That benevolent bearded father man in the clouds

The father promised to me in Sunday School.


Where are your white robes?

Where is your absolution?

Where are the silver clouds, the shiny cherubim?




God was imperious at the rail station,

The mist, the damp dripping off the cracked cement.

God, your riding crop in hand.

I was chuffed here to face you, to look you in the eye.


Here I am, God.

What do you think?


God told me—

You will be a good girl.

Or, I will send you to that place.

The chamber.

The leather crop points left, then right.




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Woman with insomnia

I wonder should I get up to fix myself a drink—

Then I would not have to think

I would not hear endless words,

Competing, screaming helter skelter for attention—

Let me take you down

I’m going soon.


The laughter in another room—

There’s nothing I can do that can’t be done.

Mother Superior jumped the gun.


I write poems in my head—

I know what it’s like to be dead,

Then judged by a million eyes.

I know what it is to be sad,

Remember all the faces and places.

Come morning, these words will be gone.

Bang bang, shoot shoot.


If I could just turn off my mind—

Relax and float downstream

Fix that hole where the rain gets in

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void.


Wednesday morning at five o’ clock—

I’m so tired.

I haven’t slept a wink.

Leave me where I am.


Old enough to know better,

Always smiling and arriving late for tea.

Another year older,

I’m not a girl who misses much.


Can you take me back where I came from

Can you take me back

Can you take me back where I came from

Mama, can you take me back?













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