34 John Jeffrey Prometheus
35 William Jolliff Cold Calls
37 Marilyn Kallet Wanted -The Day Ike Won
39 Nancy Kerrigan Empty Boots
40 Lee Keylock Clytemnestra Speaks
41 Patricia Lafayllve Stages
42 Jack Powers How to Write a College Essay
43 Anesa Miller That Kind of Virgin
44 Patricia Mottola One Night Stand
45 Meghan O’Reilly Museum
46 Robert Parham December
When you have kids, these things just happen.
Even when you’re about to settle in for pie,
pecan pie which, though squirted out
in a factory with an oil crust instead
of butter or lard, is tasty nevertheless,
and you’ve been thinking about it
since you finished your last call
of the morning, and even a little before,
even when you were trying to convince
an ex-rocker with a pony tail and nose rings
that your new MegaBoom amp line
will kick more nasty, useful wattage
than the Behringers or Fenders,
and he was about to believe you,
but was finally too short of capital
to stock your line. But you’re happy
that you’ve finally shed your Plymouth
for a new Toyota that rides like a horse
trailer but should start each morning
(cross your fingers, make your payments),
so you drive through Emma’s Lunch Box
and buy the roast beef and the pie,
get two creams for your coffee, what the hell,
and the Toyota whinnies and kicks back
out onto the I-5 ramp. Then you stop.
Everything stops. And right in mid-bitch
and moan, you remember that you can
still make some calls, but the cell phone
won’t work, so you’ll just sit and eat
Auntie Emma’s Wild Western Roast Beef,
and the pie, too, without a fork,
and when traffic starts moving again
and you find the prime rubber-necking spot,
you see by the look of the men
in the squad—two firemen smoking
on the bumper of a medical unit—
and by the horrible shortness of the sheet—
that some poor mother’s child has died,
even, maybe, as you were stirring your decaf
and thinking about how if you exercised
enough, though you wouldn’t be young forever,
you might see your daughter graduate.
Your cheeks flush. You shake your fist
at the crumbs that stick to your jacket.
I wanted to be tan for you,
to speak sea, sun, skin.
I wanted to be twenty,
reading poetry in Acapulco,
admiring my brown body in the mirror.
That was the summer of
Anyone would have known better.
But he was tall and built,
a construction worker,
proof of D.H. Lawrence,
sturdier than my nebbock college friends.
He wanted to make love on the roof,
the only cool breeze
we could afford those days.
Of course he walked off.
And here you are 30 years later
oblivious to the woman
old enough to be your mother.
I wanted to be tan for you,
to let my skin be parchment
unfolding the history of love
instead of sun damage.
Let the language of flesh
call out to you:
Only the imagination is real!
I have declared it time and again!
So said the aging William Carlos Williams,
and so sayeth my skin, at sixty.
The Day Ike Won
Grandma Stella wept
behind the guest room door,
where she napped and prayed
and waited to have her heart attack.
We were Democrats, she said.
Democrats helped workers and the poor.
Next door Mrs. Mills cried,
more than when the squirrel
bit her. So did the Cusas
who used to beat their daughter Rebecca.
Across the street palsied Grandma Asher
cried beneath her babushka,
and Ira's mother leaned red-eyed
over the Yiddish paper.
Their beagle Petey howled at the moon.
Grandma said that Stevenson was intelligent
and that our country
needed a president with brains.
Our whole block sat shiva
over Adlai, his name soft and open
like a song.
But Ike had lead Allied forces and could
whip Korea. Soon Ike was eating bombs
for breakfast, Life magazine said.
Often I hear weeping
when I read the news. Grandma died
long before Bush the First;
Mommy saw a ghost and cried for a year.
I like Ike , buttons boasted in '52.
My bumper sticker still hails Gore.
Grandma, if you're up there,
put in a word
for Petey the Beagle,
or any yellow dog who can lift a leg
A soldier in camouflage, a young man,
kneeling in prayer like the men he has come to kill,
kisses the empty boots of a fallen comrade.
His soldier was a young woman.
Both toes of her dusty government issued shoes
are lined up so evenly, they look as if they’re saluting.
She will not realize the college education
for which she enlisted. She will never again
slip into a pair of slinky high heels,
or kick them off as she peels away lingerie
on the way to the bedroom. Nor will she
chase after her kids in sneakers, or try
to balance motherhood with anything again.
Her rifle rammed upward in the sand,
helmet on the bayonet of her gun.
So Agamemnon, you are here, somewhere
in our city, and I wonder your years
at Ilium; how you suffered, a man
who has not really come back.
Was it ordained this way—Fate
scattering you in the direction of your wild
hair to live a life unbridled
to the laud of men?
I imagine war spoils; a century of women
defiled in your honor, how could it not be?
But who says who suffers most?
I lost my daughter so your boat could sail,
watched a thousand fatherless sons play war
in the fields frantic for the fame that drove
their fathers east in search of splendor.
I suppose you will want to have me
the way you had Briseis under camplight
with all the grace of a good bull loosed
upon a herd as it hammers life home. No,
my love, let the other women welcome
their husbands. Come Agamemnon,
let me cleanse your wounds, and in darkness
we will bathe. Watch my plot unfold
like your concubine’s robe.
Don’t sing me the psalms, the novenas.
Right now, I don’t want to remember.
Leave me alone. I need to forget.
Five weeks ago doctors found lung cancer.
He can’t be gone, chemotherapy
hasn’t had time to work yet.
Screw the hymns and platitudes, I want no solace.
Give me the rusting razor of rash agony.
Let me shred my own flesh in wails.
I’m not interested in your comfort.
Even less in reasons; shut your bleating mouth.
I don’t care why – cancer murdered Ed Lorenz.
Father McNulty was his dear friend-
Ed called Father Mac his ticket to heaven.
Father Mac had two priests help him send Ed off.
So, God, how are things going?
Are you willing to send him back yet?
I think we need him in our fields more than you do.
I lie on the sofa staring at the television.
It isn’t on. Silent in the growing darkness
my chest caves under gravitational force.
My body craves the sleep I cannot settle beneath.
Eyes filled with grit, desert sand burning them
blink slowly, examine the enfolding night.
The departed live on in our memories.
I stand, raise a shot glass, tell his stories.
A good Catholic, he was always out in the backhoe.
He competed for last place in barrel races.
Ed played 21 Aces, smoked Marlboros
drank Drambouie and preferred contagious laughter.
How to Write a College Essay
Start with your greatest loss, biggest obstacle, the woman you loved, the man you killed. Open your heart. Relax. Show the real you. This is the most important paper of your life; be unique. Never mention the word "special." Be specific: the time your mother wished she'd never adopted you; the night your father died in the fire. Make the reader see the veins in her neck, feel the words strike, the door slam. See you in the garage smoking by the turpentine; see the garage ignite.
That Kind of Virgin
That yellow day, walking in the open gusts of fall,
nowhere near the bedroom, you did not patronize me
with reproaches or cajoling. Ever curious about all
the earth’s odd niches, you reminded me of
passing seasons, “You’re thirty-eight years old—
when are you going to decide to be ready?”
I thought I had decided—readiness would be denied
me. Prioress in my lichened halls,
I had accepted that I’d never know
the joy you wished for me.
But home, when I struggled
to sweeten our tea, honey clotted
in the bottom of the jar, you took
a long-handled spoon and insisted on helping.
“I’ll get some real sugar out of there for you.”
You went at that jar, and I had to turn
away to hide the war of eagerness
and fear that felt like shame.
But you took me in a comradely way
by the shoulders to lie in slatted sunlight
and pressed with irresistible,
gently questing, fingers. Rarity
means once in a million for most things,
but this was a first in at least many thousand,
with more men than I have told you.
One death-denying leap—and
we flew to the future we would share
these many years, my body
spinning on elated viscera,
this continent resplendent,
gone begging millennia
with your imprint
on my soul’s
On my bedroom ceiling
They make a sound when they go, like clouds eclipsing the sun on a summer day when I lie exposed in my bikini, eyes closed, and suddenly feel the chill. Next day I fight to find proof of their existence. Lost stars that mock memory. Sometimes in daylight I think I see one coming unglued, separated from the ceiling. Defective. It hangs there like hope. I wait for night and quit believing. They only shine when the lights go out. Sometimes I think darkness is their only reason for being.
Each year the calendar remembers
it must finish what it started.
This is hard because important dates
take over, get in the way
of the large picture, the contract,
if you will, the fait accompli .
Now, this: like a dog lolling in the mouth
of the yard gate, open, waiting
to go in or out, nothing that smacks
of persistence or chance,
merely what is , perhaps what will be,
but will not be again.