Wednesday, August 29, 2018

In Memoriam

God, my death was so embarrassing.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if there were no afterlife,
no consciousness or soul to remember it,
but here I am.
Did you know that nausea can be a symptom
of a heart attack in women?
I sure didn’t!
I vomited into a garbage can in the middle of
a mandatory company meeting.
(I was pretty sure it was just their crappy catered lunch.)
Everyone stared at me, open-mouthed,
too shocked to be disgusted.
Theresa, the self-appointed office mom,
put her arm around my shoulders and said,
“Oh honey, are you okay?  Let’s get you to the bathroom.”
I kind of waved her off,
her perfume inciting new swells of nausea,
then I stumbled to the women’s room in the hallway.
I took off my button-down shirt to rinse it off in the sink,
then I got very light-headed and collapsed.
I was kind of watching the whole scene from above my body,
which was a sign that things weren’t going very well for me then.
My worst coworker, Rebecca, was the one who found me,
lying on the floor, in my bra,
vomit-stained shirt crumpled at my side.
She came in the bathroom with her little toadie, Sharon.
“Oh my God,” she said, “we should, like, call 911, right?”
To Sharon’s credit, she tried performing a half-hearted CPR
while Rebecca ran for help.
And the paramedics eventually came,
and there was a whole crowd of people in the bathroom
and just outside the bathroom,
to see me wheeled out on a gurney.
People gasping,
Nicole was crying…oh Christ, really?
The EMTs were going to town with their chest compressions,
but it was all for naught,
and I didn’t even make it to the ER.
So the manner of my passing was highly unsatisfactory,
and then my over-religious sister
got her hands on my funeral service,
and the less said about that, the better.
My brother brought that girlfriend of his, of course,
who managed to make the whole thing about her.
And it was pretty much exactly what I would expect from all of them,
but they say funerals are for the living.
At least my good friend, Christina, tree-hugger that she is,
managed to get my cremains turned into a tree,
however they do that.
So the bits and pieces of what was once me are a tree now,
and that’s nice because I always wanted to
get outside more.

Mental Health Day: A Pantoum

You need to give yourself a break sometimes,
when you’ve caught a bit of depression.
Screw washing the dishes overflowing in the sink tonight.
Sometimes you need to give yourself a bit of a boost.

When you’ve caught a bit of depression,
and you don’t know how long it’s going to last,
sometimes you need to give yourself a bit of a boost,
like a new color of drugstore lipstick.

You don’t know how long it’s going to last,
but maybe tomorrow you can turn it all around.
Maybe that new color of drugstore lipstick
is all it takes to get out of bed tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow you will definitely turn it all around.
It’s just a bit of depression, no big deal.
You’ll practically leap out of bed tomorrow.
New lips, new you, transcendent, or at least more or less okay.

Late Check-Out

I should have left the hotel room long ago,
maybe half an hour after you,
just long enough so no one would see us together,
but I’m too hungover.  I think I’m dying.
You left a tumbler of whiskey on the bedside table,
ice cubes long melted.
I can’t even look at it now,
but I can smell it.
Aching head, dry mouth.
Naked between these sheets,
I light a cigarette.
The maid raps insistently at the door,
ready to take me out with the rest of the trash.
I hate myself at times like these.
This love has turned me into a begging dog,
which you alternately caress and kick in the ass.
You call my name,
and I come running in a pair of black stilettos.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

111 S. Michigan Avenue

Rainy day in the city;
of course I don’t have an umbrella.
The angry dark skies overhead say,
“This isn’t clearing up any time soon.”
So I and the rest of the umbrella-less tourists
reply, “It’s a good day to go to the Art Institute.”
Hundreds of tennis shoes and flip-flops squeak
on the highly polished wooden floors.
I don’t see as many people gathered around
the strange Renaissance portraits of tortured saints
and fat cherubs with the faces of middle-aged men
or the sumptuous still-lifes with grapes and apples
and pears artfully arranged around some dead fish.
Instead, the tourists and I stare into the depths of the Monets,
soothed by the hazy outlines of a French town in the distance
or a single haystack painted in all seasons and times of day,
gentle foggy pinks and gauzy blues and feathery purples,
perfect for a postcard or a dorm room wall,
forgetting that these paintings were once an outrage,
an effrontery, an insult to Art and Good Taste.
Anything new is radical and therefore offensive to someone,
a target for mockery until someone can look with new eyes
and open the rest of ours, usually long after the artist
has perished in poverty and despair and madness.

Nocturnal Perambulation

This year I have embraced the summer night.
The air, breezy and cool; no punishing
sun or oppressive humidity; no
kids kicking their soccer balls in the street
or riding their bikes three abreast, gleeful
shrieks and minor gang warfare. Instead the
neighborhood is still.  Mars, bright as the moon,
watches orangely as skunks and rabbits flee
my dogs’ snuffling noses and piercing barks.
I roam at peace while everyone else sleeps.