Wednesday, May 30, 2018


I don’t think he is as big as Anubis was,
but his white feet seem huge,
like Great Dane feet.
He has a long body with tiger stripes.
The tip of his tail is bright white like a flare.
He has short, floppy ears that fold over
on top of his head
or point in the direction he’s looking
like a turn signal.
He has a deep bark
but also a sharp shriek and a yodel.
He lies on his back,
long legs and feet dangling in the air,
pink tongue lolling out of a grinning mouth.

He confuses and alarms me
by being a picky eater.
Expensive organic grain-free treats
left uneaten in his crate
until they are stolen by an opportunistic Giza,
his older ebony sister.
Now he’s stuck in the blinds again.

He comes to me, bright-eyed and panting,
when he sees me getting dressed.
He wants a walk even though
he knows it’s storming.
You can hear it in the house.
He leaps and beats a march on my leg with his tail
when I finally put on some pants.
When the rain dies down,
I take the dogs outside,
and he pushes the storm door open
with his hard wrecking-ball head.
When he sees squirrels and aloof outdoor cats,
his ears stand straight up on his head,
and his whole body vibrates.
Amber hunting eyes wide.
He whines and yelps.
Then he turns his attention
to sniffing the ground
or gagging on a long piece of grass.

He still needs to learn to sit and shake,
still needs to learn to walk up the stairs,
still needs to learn to bark at the door
when he needs to go out,
still needs to figure out who that dog in the mirror is.
I massage his ears,
and his eyes close in bliss.
If we trust him not to piss in the house,
he’s totally going to piss in the house.
He has no idea what the hell is going on yet,
but he’s excited and happy about it anyway.


You are thirteen years old
in 1989:
nothing you do is right.
You don’t want to wear makeup
or date boys,
but you don’t want to be a freak.
There is absolutely no choice
but to get your thin blonde hair
and to curl your bangs
and spray them liberally with Aqua Net.
The popular girls
with the bigger bangs and richer parents
have IOU sweatshirts,
purchased at Merry-Go-Round in Southlake Mall.
They wear multiple pairs of thick colored socks
and large hot pink scrunchies
and a thousand jelly bracelets.
The popular boys,
though still Neanderthals,
wear black Z. Cavaricci jeans
and Hypercolor sweatshirts
or purple plaid Skidz shorts.
Nothing you wear is right.
Everyone grins with metal braces
in their school photos.
Anywhere you go,
you are nasally assaulted by Exclamation
and Love’s Baby Soft perfume,
while the boys just smell like sweat and dirty socks and tuna sandwiches.
Birthday parties with six-foot Subway sandwiches
or sleepover pizza parties
and scavenger hunts.
You have your first crush
on a boy named Jason.
He has peroxide blonde hair.
He likes the Cure and the Smiths
and wears a leather jacket
with an enormous crucifix attached,
identical to the cross hanging on your living room wall.
He prefers your prettier best friend
and allegedly said that you were “nice but have Coke bottle glasses.”
You lie on the brown carpeted floor in the basement rec room,
listen to Depeche Mode at full volume
and just want to die.
You mom announces dinner.
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” you shout.
At the parish carnival,
you ride the flying bobs and tilt-a-whirl
while Poison and Guns N’ Roses blares.
A wristband lets you ride all day.
There’s a booth where you can buy roses for a dollar.
You’re pretty sure no boy is ever going to buy a rose for you.
Nothing you do is right.
Dream of growing up
and being a better you
and living far, far away.

The Hearing

I am waiting for my attorney.
He wanted to confer about half an hour
before the start of the hearing.
He seems less concerned about the outcome
than the prospect of being embarrassed somehow.
I don’t think he likes how I did my hair.
He wants to practice, but I’m easily distracted.
What’s the point of answering the same questions
twice in one day?
The same questions I’ve been asked every five years
for the past eighteen.
Eventually I’m brought into the room
where I face the panel.
They were laughing about something
before I walked in the room.
I’d never seen them be human before.
As soon as they see me, their faces turn to stone,
and they start shuffling papers around.
So they start asking the usual questions.
I wonder if they are as bored as I am.
I must be glancing at the clock on the wall too much.
My attorney sharply nudges my knee with his.
Pay attention!
Yes, I’m remorseful.
Yes, I’ve been reading and getting my education.
Yes, I’m even a Christian now.
Yes, I’m a model employee in the kitchen.
No, I wouldn’t do it again.
I mean, look at me.
I’m a plump gray-haired lady now.
I would say I am rehabilitated, yes.
The widow is there, of course.
She’s never missed a hearing.
You’d think she made a career of it.
Her children are there too,
small when we started this;
now they have children of their own.
They beg the board to keep me where I am,
and honestly, I agree with them.
I have found a life here.
Not anyone’s ideal life, but it’s mine.
I have friends, and I don’t get hassled.
I like to help the new girls,
scared out of their minds
missing their boyfriends and their kids,
sometimes pregnant.
I lied about being a Christian earlier.
I haven’t found religion,
but I have found peace.
Peace that doesn’t exist out there,
where I have no job prospects
and no one wants me moving next
to their homes or schools.
So my responses to the board
(scripted by my attorney)
are flat and rote, to his dismay.
I know the board members are swayed by the testimony
of the victims.
After some deliberation, they announce
that my parole has been denied.
I breathe a sigh of relief
and smile,
but I quickly assume a grim expression
for the sake of everyone involved.
My attorney already moved on to the next case,
and I return home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Astronomy in Chicago

I step outside.
Storm door closes slowly behind me.
I thought it was going to be warmer;
rub my upper arms as I shiver
Pause on the sidewalk just in front of my home.
Return inside to confused dogs.
Come outside again with a sweater.
You never know what you should wear
when the fuchsia roses start to bloom,
but it rains dreary nearly every day.

They said it was a once in a lifetime event.
Jupiter and Saturn would not be so close
for the next three thousand years.
There would be around 100 meteorites
streaking across the sky per minute
at the peak of the shower.
The eclipse would drape the moon
in a fiery red,
and it would be cartoon-huge
in the sky above.

Walk down the block.
Crane my Achilles neck,
achy after only a few moments.
Rub it with my left hand;
find no relief.
Which way is northwest?
Where is Sagittarius?
I don’t have binoculars or a telescope.
The sky is thick with unwelcome clouds and
orange haze from street lamps below.
I see the rooftops of my neighbors’ homes
and the black silhouettes of trees.
An insolent raccoon crosses my path.
Large drops spatter onto the upturned lenses
of my glasses.
The rain pours steadily now.
I put my hood over my head
and walk home with hurried steps and
hunched shoulders.

General Admission

I bore white-hot angry holes into the back of your skull
but only after standing on tiptoe
and craning my neck.
I’ve eagerly awaited this show for months,
squealed in triumph when I scored tickets
at 10:01 a.m., and the venue sold out three minutes later.
Now I stand in what had been the perfect spot
before you arrived,
out of the crush of the crowd,
but with a clear view of the center of the stage.
Then all eight feet six inches of you
walked casually right in front of me.
I was hoping you were merely passing through
on your way to purchase another $10 Bud Light.
But you stand there now, frozen to the spot,
staring at your cell phone,
oblivious to the fact that I am half your height
and was here before you.
I try to peer around you,
still uncomfortably on tiptoe.
Your dumb friend keeps leaning in to chat,
so I can’t view the performance
through the space between you two either.
I seethe quietly,
reading the back of your t-shirt for the hundredth time.
It proves you're a big fan of a particularly shitty band.
You keep talking during the show
and texting someone else.
Someone calls you, and you answer your phone. 
Really, dude?
“I’m over here,” you cry, waving fruitlessly.
“No, here!”
Then you notice me standing behind you,
frowning mouth and dagger eyes.
If you thought I was cute,
you'd offer to stand behind me
and then stare at my ass.
But I am Not Cute,
so I am just a hostile, impotent ghost.