October, 2011

Shaking out my hair,
I said, This is she.
I plucked bills out of
nowhere, waved them around.
No one liked the new
me, except for my new friends.
We didn’t just slap
each other; we loved
feeling the slapped
person grab us tighter.
I walked like my clothes
were made of men’s hands
lifting me at the waist,
stopping for a hug. 
I was happy. 
If you knew me when I was trying
everything, and
rolling over
and trying it on my back….
If you saw how I used to wake up early
to chug water
and try,
you would say nothing
but what the good men of October say:
After you, Beautiful, Enjoy the Sunshine, and Good morning. 



The first mother came on a boat
without her husband.
She couldn't wait.
Her baby died, so she had another one,
but rarely held it.
That baby turned into
the second mother,
and she called the dog by her daughter's name
when she was scolding it.
Her daughter wanted to be a good mother,
but other things were more important.
She always said, "What am I? Chopped liver?"
Her son was my father.
He read the newspaper like someone was hurting him,
but there was no one there
except me.
I'll be the fifth.
I already practice breathing in a way
that makes me radiate kindness.
I already imagine my baby asleep beside me
and I coo, Poor baby.


The Decision

Some things were always sexy.
Even before fire
and cave drawings,
men used the backs of their hands
to wipe sweat off their foreheads,
and women looked up in surprise.
And people broke out in laughter,
rocking back and forth, touching each other's wrists.
People made each other cry
and then made up and, already
leaning together
in shame and complicity,
their decision was no decision at all.



In her first video, she dressed up like a private school girl.
Everyone was her for Halloween
even on progressive college campuses.
People lost their virginities that night.
She had beautiful legs and an ass that was featured in magazines.
After kissing a woman on stage,
she said it wasn't her idea.
She was sort of game for anything.
Men asked her if she liked it and she said she did.
She was beautiful. Her skin was rubbed
with some kind of glittery lotion.

After her divorce,
she said she had this feeling in her chest
that wouldn't go away.

There was an ex-boyfriend, the one we think
she really loved, who wrote her a letter.
Tears streamed down her face
in the rehab center where she read it.
Her hair was gone then. You could really see her face.



When I grew up,
after sex and therapy,
I called to tell them.


Leading Man

The bad guy turned out to be
good. He used to stare at you at parties.
The night you were jumped
by racists, he sprang from the shadows,
wrapped you in blankets.
You woke up nestled in cushions in your bed.

He is a man of dreams,
sometimes young with a black beard,
sometimes climbing steps
in a cement stairwell.

No surprise to find him in a book.
In reality he was a prickly, painful man,
who couldn't hear his own name
when you called it. All he every did
for you was stop on a landing once and
turn around, smiling.


To the Park

I carry one baby on each hip
and push two in a double stroller.
One rides on my shoulders,
holding fistfuls of my hair.
One is strapped to my back
and another to my front.

We all eat ice cream in the grass.
Some of the babies eat grass

while I sing Lucinda Williams songs
in a sorrowful, southern drawl.
I used to be sorrowful,
but not anymore.

Now I sing to my babies
and I show them how to clap their hands
if they can manage to open their hands
and make them flat.

I hear the muffled sound
of my cell phone ringing.
It is my roommate calling to complain
about her job.
But I don’t understand unhappiness anymore.
I don’t have a job

and I don’t have a roommate.
I have babies.
I take them to the park
and sit them in the shade
and smooth the fine hair
off their sweaty, concentrating faces.

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