Thursday, July 30, 2009

Avoiding Bad Luck

The summer has found her way back,
like a rotten little sister
we tried to ditch at the mall
but she is here, again,
pampered and stamping her foot
threatening to tell.

And the humidity is soaking
my skull
and the hardwood floors
are drying out my feet till they itch.
My bones are splitting,
yellow marrow and cracked gray
every part of me is hot like I’ve been
pulled from an oven,

but this morning
there was a letter
telling me about my father,
that little has changed
that there was some growth
but also some shrinking
that the nurse says that the doctor
will say to come back
in 3 months
and I remember
that we have been riding
this wave of Luck, with a capital L, for years now,

so I walk a little softer this morning
hoping to pass through my days
creeping across the back drop
so that Bad Luck doesn’t see me
making a ruckus
and crying about the weather
and she doesn’t give me something
bigger to cry about.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Real Poem

It is early and I am up
like it is so many mornings
like I start so many poems

and Mozart is playing on the radio,
now angry
but he started off kind of soft and tempting
all velvet strings and fog
but it turned into trumpets and flutes
too much metal clanking for a nearly august morning

when the heat is finally settling on this city
and creeping under my clothing
making me itch,
making me distracted
making this poem even harder to write

especially cause I hate writing about writing,
it’s like stalling till the main act comes on stage
and I feel myself sweating under the spotlight
making lame jokes
and awkward too loud laughs
glancing at the sidelines
for the real act to come on
to another empty room.

And I fidget,
toe tap
and weight shift
hair twist
and nail bite
lip pinch
and nibble
my mouth
opens and closes
and opens and closes
like a fish
about to read Shakespeare.

But it’s okay,
this isn’t the real poem
the real poem is coming up
and man,
it’s going to be so good,
you are going to say to yourself,
wow, what a line,
what a poem.
It’s going to knock your socks off,
any minute now,
just you wait and see.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So was Virginia

In my dream last night
I was given a ragdoll,
with long white legs
made by Virginia Woolf
when she was just a little girl

and I thought to myself,
that there are some people
that never seem like little girls
like they were born into this world,
fully grown, sprung from the head of Zeus,
and so many writers seem that way.

Last night was a Pink Life kind of night,
where we talk about writing,
over beers,
until you glance at your watch
and realize how much time has gone by,
while we were gushing and fussing
over poems. Poems that we treat
like little girls with crooked
ponytails. The kind of little girls who
say “Unlikely” when asked if they think
letters will arrive in the mail.
The kind that love the Wizard of Oz,
and ask aloud what the house must have felt
like to find itself suddenly moving from darkness to color.

And we talk about half finished novels.
Half finished novels that act
like teenage boys,
who wreck the car,
who leap off waterfalls,
who fail math class,
who sneak in the window at 2 am after spending
most of the night, trying to unzip their girlfriends jeans,
who are causing so much heartache and worry.

And we talk about it passionately
like we just met today and discovered our shared secret,
not 12 years ago.
And there is so much work that goes into this,
the tending to, this garden, the fear of frost
the threading of words,
gemstones on wires of heartache,
that is how I know that like you,
I was that little girl
and I was that teenage boy,
and so was Virginia, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dear Future Me

I am writing letters to myself
dated and stamped to arrive
years from now,
torn and tattered from their trip
around the world.
Sodden from the months spent
laying at the bottom of the ocean,
nibbled on by fish.
I take them out of the mailbox carefully,
so as not to tear the corners,
examine the stamps,
all the places that I want to go,
faded ink,
and the smell of old yellowed paper.
I read about the heat wave,
the wars,
the implosion of a family,
the cardboard boxes to store my life in,
and my hopes.
I read about how I am keeping
my fingers crossed, like a little kid,
waiting for it to all Get Better
and the voice on the paper is so eager,
so dreamy, like a prayer,
like what a god would hear
if you could separate our collective noise
but I know that a month after this letter
it all fell apart,
that it was as fragile as the paper it was writ upon,
and I think of that girl,
who didn’t know that yet,
and unfold a new sheet of paper,
to start all over
to jot down all the things now,
that are teetering on the thin edge
of my narrow Hope.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dan Says Come To Venice

He tells me he’s a little bit drunk.
He tells me to come to Venice.
He tells me to steal my sister’s credit card
go to JFK right now and come to Venice.

He tells me he misses me and he hates me.
He says he’s furious I’m not there,
that I go every other damn place,
why not come to Venice?
He offers free lodge.
He will pay for dinners.
He says Venice is so fantastic and boring
and did he mention he was a little bit drunk?
He says I would appreciate it.
He says I can work there. I can write. Get writing done,
which is the goal, is it not?
He says he knows he’s being forward
but he has no social graces
and that I must go if I’m going to do all this exclusive shit in my life.
He ends his last message with a guttural cry.

And I would, if I could.

But it’s so very far from here
and my pockets are empty
and I’ve still got these poems to write.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


“You stole it,” he says,
taking a sip of his drink,
a wry smile playing on his lips.

“I didn’t steal it,” I say,
I found it, I think. I saved it.
I rescued it. They should have been more careful.

“You stole it,” he says again.

I look down at the blue t-shirt
the way it fits perfectly,
the way it hugs my breasts,
especially now, with no bra on,
like a strange pair of illicit hands
holding the weight.

And he’s probably right. I did steal it.
But it was left in the washing machine
downstairs, in the basement of this giant building.
They left other clothes too but I noticed them
as I pulled my wet shirts and underwear into the basket.

I didn’t notice the blue t-shirt because it looked like
it was something I would own.
Should own.

“You need to bring it back downstairs,” he says.
“I know,” I say and then change the topic
because I also know that if I do, if I leave it on the
oh-so-polite communal table of the wash room,
like the way people leave movies or used books for anyone to take
that someone else will find it before the owner.

And it won’t hug their curves,
or show their nipples in quite the same way.
And did I mention how soft it was?
Or that it has the cutest little bleach stain on the back, just by the shoulder blade?
Or how it reminds me of a t-shirt I used to have
a million years ago, when my hips and breasts were smaller
and my high school boyfriend and I wore the same size.
I used to let him borrow it
and when he gave it back to me
it smelled like him,
him and sex and summer nights on the beach
and rainy fall days in my rusted out car
and kisses that lasted hours, and punk rock shows
and cigarettes and aimless night in small towns
with nothing to do but try to not get pregnant.

“What if it was your favorite black t-shirt?” he adds.
“Yes I know,” I say changing the topic again.

Because right now, on the couch,
I don’t mind being the bad person, the thief.
I don’t mind remembering
for a change.
Remembering the good parts of back then.
I’ll wash it next week.
And I’ll give it back.
I promise.

Monday, July 13, 2009


-for Sesame, my sister

Stephanie, you are thirty-five
but it is early still and I’m not sure if you know that yet,
asleep in your bed
in your house,
300 miles from here
where I sit,
watching the dawn spread
a startling blue spider web of light
thinking about sisterhood,

and how when we were younger,
I used to sneak into your room
when you weren’t there
just sit on your bed
and wonder about you.
I touched your jewelry cases, opened them to see your earrings,
laying like little treasures.
I would open your closet,
try on your Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt
which still smelled faintly like your hairspray
and your skin.

Or earlier before that
when we shared that little
room but then it seemed so big
plenty big for two little girls
who shared a pair of roller skates,
one on each foot on the bumpy driveway,
and how I wanted my hair to be just like yours
which it never was.

Never so fine and delicate.
Skin never so freckled.
We were all brown-eyed,
except for you with those lighter than sky blue
translucent eyes.
Ghost eyes.
Our father’s eyes.

When our oldest sister moved out,
you took her room,
and I remember thinking how lonely it would be at night
without you breathing in the bed next to me.
I was a tornado even in sleep,
tossing and turning, sleeping with my eyes open,
but you lay perfectly still,
as if you hadn’t a care in the world
cocooned in whatever dreams you were having,
as you may be right now, as I write this,
another thing I could add to the list of things I didn’t know.

And now we are grown,
too grown it seems,
making the kinds of decisions that
don’t seem as important
and you are far away
too far away it seems,
working to become a mother yourself,
and I wonder where all that time has gone.

And I hope that you have girls,
to pound down the steps of that house
to slip secret notes between the cracks in the wall
and I want you to remember that we used to do that
from one closet to another,
and I want you to know them,
their laugh
their nervous late night call for you in the dark.
I want them to share a pair of roller skates
on the driveway
so that we can watch this cycle
repeat itself
and we can see how certain things
are unchangeable,
and that sisterhood is unchangeable.

It is a coming together and apart,
over time.
It is our hair growing down to our toes.
It is the secret language we once knew,
and then forgot,
coming back to our tongues one final time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Log, or the Necessity of Selective Memory

It was one of the few things I never kept track of,
which is strange,
as I am prone to do those things,
track, obsess, log, journal, those kinds of things.

But he suggested a book log,
in the back of my journal,
journals that have been stacking up since
I was eight and had a crush on Michael Jackson.

and I thought it was a great idea.
My elusive and trickster memory
could be pinned down, tied to the stone of time
dripping snake venom and all.
No more standing in the long aisles of Strand,
wondering aloud,
like a crazy person,
if I had read the book in hand.

No more finding out from my husband,
whose memory is better than mine,
(sometimes even for the parts he wasn’t around for yet)
that I had, in fact, read the book
the first time we lived in New York
and didn’t like it.

No more thinking there was something wrong with me,
or emotionally
since I was unable to remember what I did
or read or saw or thought
or cried over or laughed with just a few years ago.

So I have the list,
and yesterday, as I noticed my journal
was winding down, that there were only a handful of pages
left since I started it last October,
that my book list didn’t look so long.
And only added up to 50 books
and now I am disappointed. 50 books? It felt like more.
Much more. And that includes the ones I gave up on.
And there it was, another thing to be disappointed in
like the rejections and the long hot summer ahead
and the bad writing mornings
and the Sunday night arguments,
and the silent phone
and the job insecurity
and the empty belly
and the cheap scotch and
this list is going to get longer
and longer,
longer even than the book log.

And now I’m starting to think,
there may be reasons, a sort of natural selection of the brain,
for my selective memory.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Spontaneous Conversation

He says that it wasn’t fair.
He says that it’s obvious that is him in the poem.
He says that I didn’t have his permission to take his stories.

I try to laugh it off, but I think he’s serious.

I tell him, he should be flattered.
I tell him, I believed his stories.
I tell him, that’s what writers do.

We steal from people around us.
Plucking little snippets of conversation,
mistaken drunken sentences,
bad behavior,
we watch for them and we take them and put them down in ink
where they live forever.
We photograph your words, and then hang them up for all to see.

She tells me she loved the poem.
She tells me that she is my muse.
She does a little ballerina twirl when she says this.

I tell her, yes.
I tell her, good. There will be more stories. More poems.
More words and deeds captured in my net.
Sometimes we take it and we twist it.
We make your truths, lies
your untruths, whole.

This is the price of friendship with people like us,
the word-smiths
the story-weavers.
And most times we are too selfish
too destructive
too drunk
to even be good friends.
But you keep coming back,
so I guess we can’t make everyone happy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walking Home in the Rain

It’s not the best walk I’ve had,
not by a long shot,
down 86th street
from 3rd Avenue
to 18th Avenue

but it’s mine
and I’ve gotten used to it,
the spots where there is no shade
in the blazing summer sun
or the way the forest by the park
smells just like the one back home.

But in the rain,
it takes on a certain feeling,
cause no one is else is walking
2 and a half miles in wet flip flops
with Greetings From Asbury Park
in their ears

and if they are,
well they aren’t doing it down 86th street
cause it’s empty nearly the whole way
and the rain has been coming down for weeks now
washing away the snails and the leaves that cling to the stone wall
by the big houses near 13th Avenue.

When I pass our window,
you are already inside,
dry, though you must have been caught in it too.
Your feet up on the coffee table,
the orange light glowing,
the cat in the window,
a book in your hand,
killing time,
waiting for me, because I am late,
and because there are drinks to be made
and stories to tell,
where it’s dry.