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.




Darien 06820



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.




But I do,



My son,

You’ve outgrown it,

Taken all you can from Darien.


You no longer need it.

Get out while you can.





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.

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.




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.


Blonde Terrorist

patty hearst

Picture me.

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

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—

The bleach-blonde suburban commando.





I hid in a closet while my best friend was killed.

I texted my sister.


I love you. 

Tell Mom and Dad to get here, fast.

I don’t want to die.


Thirty of us in that closet,

Paper plates for fans.

This is not supposed to happen here.


The police came.

If you had a bag, you had to drop it in a pile.

Then, three questions—


Are you hurt?

Did you capture anything on phone or video?

Do know anything about the gunman?


After that they let us leave.


The guns have changed,

Our laws have not.


Your rights to own a gun—

All I hear is mine, mine mine.

You can buy as many guns as you want at one time.

A kid in a candy store of blood.


I am not going to be the dead kid you read about in textbooks.


We don’t want thoughts and prayers—

We want policy and change.


You, President.

I dare you.

Tell me to my face—


It was a terrible tragedy,

It should never have happened.


How much money did you get from the National Rifle Association?

You want to know something?

It doesn’t matter, because I already know.


Thirty million dollars.

Divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States

In the one and one-half months in 2018 alone,

That’s $5,800.


Is that how much we are worth to you?

Shame on you.


There is no hashtag for our grief.