Aegean

Summer on the sapphire Aegean

Fifteen and barefoot

Ten of us, too young to be independent

Off the island of Mykonos at sunset

Terraced white buildings up the hills in the brilliant glow

A faceted diamond in the gem of the sea

Magic and music wafted toward us with the tide

A glittering party promising everything

Just out of reach

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Adamantine

BFD19A17-2053-4E61-B94C-DE55CEAE9AAASometimes I feel like a Jerry-rigged creature

Built of scavenged parts, and half-remembered advice

None of it good, or from very good people

I’m not a good student, I’m just avid about what interests me

I’m lazy, and sloppy, and little interested in worldly achievements

Or maybe that’s just something I say since I feel like I have none

I’ve been cheating my way through most of my endeavors

Generally not in any obvious, banned way

But learning was easy,I didn’t need to study, so I never learned how to do it

I just learn, or I don’t, entertaining myself

And quit when I get bored

But can I learn to be a real girl from this contraption of rubber bands, paper clips and string?

I think I am going to break every time a hard wind blows

And you know how easily I am blown over

Wind that wouldn’t shake a quaking aspen

Sends me flying, a tumbleweed in time and space

You’d think a fake, built of after-market parts, duct-tape, glue and chewing gum

Would have broken long ago

I’ve been clinically dead at least once, and od’d at least 4 times, probably more

Almost bled out twice, and nearly went into kidney failure once

Been in danger more times than I can count

Death has been my friend for at least 40 years, 20 years longer than I thought I’d last

But death follows everyone from birth

Why not make it part of the family, make it tea,or a cocktail, or pour it a soda

It’s one thing to act like your boyfriend’s ex isn’t at a party

But she’s not going home with him

And I’ve been broken, cracked, crushed and killed before

My heart, rent from my chest at a charming white wine soirée in Marin

Worst of all, torn from my chest by own hand

Screaming my own humiliation, a pitiful wretch

For unrequited love

It wasn’t the first time I felt like a broken, worthless thing

Nor was it the last time I was smashed

A porcelain doll against the wall of the life I chose

Superglue, a dark room, and psychopharmacology

Could approximate my original shape

But a broken vase doesn’t hold water again

These forms we hold are all but simulacrum

And you know that old story about the hot water, the potato, and the egg

I suppose the point is to become hard boiled like the egg

Not soft like the potato

But there are other characters in the parable they’ve forgotten

The water is transformed into dangerous steam, and freed completely from the pot

Best of all, a pot, is made of metal, and metal can withstand the heat

Even melted, it’s only tempered, made stronger every time you heat it

So make of me a sword, if you must

Hone my edges until they’re sharper than stone

I’ll be a thing of beauty and danger

Sweet to behold from the proper vantage

Substantial and real

 

No Easy Grace

Hawk’s flight is bought with a mouse’s crunching death
Robin’s with beetles cracking carapace
Hummingbirds drink only flower’s sweetness
No one appreciates flight
Like those bound and broken by gravity and time
From deep mud’s perspective
The lark knows no dank disintegration
Children and foolish young men rush forward

No thought of shattered bones and bursting hearts

Mom Used To Say

When my brother and I would fight

22 months between us in age

She didn’t let us tell her the reasons for our conflict

My brother would bite me

I told my father, “Tony might be a vampire.”

“There’s no such thing as vampires,” he would tell me

“”Don’t tell me, tell him,” I replied

I whipped Tony with a hot wheel track

Narrowly missing an eye

My Mother would say, “I don’t care why.  You are both wrong.”

My brother could draw with both talent and humor, through migraines, ADHD and dyslexia

They only realized he couldn’t read because he had memorized every book he’d heard while mom used to read to us

Even after we were both supposedly able to read fine ourselves

But she accidentally skipped a page, when he was reading to her, once

And recited the page she missed instead

His creative and sophisticated mind

Beat mine, I knew

And I COULD read at four

Suddenly the words in a book of fairytales

Made pictures in my head

Neither of us thought like other children I knew, too sensitive, too vigilant,

too diagnosed with things we couldn’t hide

We were youngest with each other

Tony visited Portland for a conference of his wife’s

A chance to see our uncle Larry, more older brother though

Born when my Mother was nineteen

He was the coolest older brother, who lived just over the hills

And I think my parents practiced parenting him for years before they had us

My Dad came for a date, before they were even Married

In a New British mini-Cooper convertible, tiny, like a toy

And out came toddler Larry“

“Thank you, thank you!  Uncle Mike”

I was often deliberately prone to masquerade elsewhere

Even playing alone, I lived in every book I read

My Gumby superpower

I didn’t read Island of the Dolphins

I was the girl, stranded alone

It was bad enough being a smart kid

Suzi Encyclopedia is not a glamorous nickname

And knowing the answer isn’t always the correct thing to say

Tony had his own story to live, his own involuntary ways to hide

Ten year olds lack authority, anyway

My parents went to China right when they allowed the first tourists

Dad returned with tales, as was his way

He’d lecture professorially, based on knowledge gained from two-week guided tours, now expert on all things Chinese

I’m a little too much like him, and hated myself then

Tony was maybe ten, and had spent the week with me and grandma

Who was particularly annoyed my Mother let me choose my own outfits

My Aunt Frances died at 34 without that freedom

And I had the temerity to be born on Frances’ birthday

Thankfully Grandma Kaplan was dead before we married

Frances is my sister-in-law’s name, and neither of us married Jews  

She followed the television watching limit of 30 minutes a week

With a prison matron’s eye

And ten year old boys who can’t watch television at home

Have a habit of reading quite a lot

Even when I cheated, I read at the same time – still do

I’ve never asked about his interest in Eastern Religion

I was a twelve-year old girl

And twelve-year old girl’s have obsessions of their own

As my father expounded on Chinese religious sites

He pronounced Taoism like it’s spelled, again and again

Tony finally said, “It’s pronounced Taoism Dad.”

“But it starts with a T, and that’s how the guide always said it!”

Emphatically certain was his version of resting bitch face

Especially once he’d gotten to the Jack Daniel’s

But he’s been free from bourbon for decades

And Tony and I are older now than he was then

And he still doesn’t believe me, especially when I am right

If he hears my voice at all

Ever dreamt you were invisible?

I don’t have to, I know it doesn’t matter

Though he’s still my Daddy, even now

And I’m a woman in her 50’s

I’ve never met one who doesn’t know what it’s like

And not just because her tits and ass lost the fight with gravity

It’s a Higher Power, after all

“The T is silent, like in bananas,”

Said 10 year old Tony, as he stomped off to his room

Thirty-five years later, he’s still that Tony when I see him

As family tends to be

My heart breaks more than a little

(Fortunately, hearts break all the time)

Dad casually says at a gathering,

“Well Suzi, YOU were the “creative one”

And I was creative – I still am

But I’m good at math, and science, got the college degrees to prove it

I didn’t pick the majors because I wanted to, I did it because I could

And my parents still have low expectations and astronomic demands

But at family therapy, like Tony answered the therapist at 25, when asked if there was an agenda for the session

“All our agendas are hidden, so let’s just begin.”

We all laughed at that one, humor makes good armor

And we’ve been fighting a long time

Life is Rashomon, my father plays King Lear

Mom plays Queen MacBeth or Katherine, the shrew, depending on the moment

Tony and I were both busy choosing our own roles, WE weren’t always certain of the play

Mom used to say, “No one told you Life was fair.”

Mom used to say, “Retroactive abortion might be a good idea.”

Mom used to say, “Do you know how much I love you?”

Mom used to say, “Do I look fat in these pants?”

Mom used to say, “You’re lazy, fat and worthless.”

Mom used to say, “You’re so beautiful,” and kiss me

Mom used to say, “You said you’d return that two weeks ago.” and bang my head against the wall

She’d play “skiing from the Nazis” as we parallel turned down the slopes

Mom told Mrs. Berman, showed boxes full of sketches I’d made during science class, though it hadn’t affected my grades – the “smart class” and the honor roll

“Pretty good work, I’d say.” Mom said,

And led me out of the room, sketches in hand

Mom used to say “Elephants don’t give birth to kittens

I’m not sure which we were

Mom used to say, “I need a facelift, don’t you think?”

Hating herself was my moms “resting bitch face”

And I was never sure if it was the ways I looked just like her

Or the ways I definitely didn’t,

of which I’d come out worse

Without mutual exclusivity, both were probably true

Mom used to say, “You’re a loser.”

But when creative differences

Got me kicked out of the planned performance of my good friends

On a field trip to Idyllwild when I was in the 7th grade

Right before the show

I had little time, and no ideas, for what to do alone

She collected clothes from somewhere, so I could have a lot of layers on

And said, “Put on your red pajamas underneath”

I thought she’d lost her mind

They were red, one piece long Johns, maybe even with feet

And I was still a tiny little girl

My mom said, “Do a striptease to ‘Let Me Entertain You”

Down to her actual underwear, and DD bra, huge on my prepubescent form

Until I was just in my pj’s

It brought down the show

I’m creative, but NOT the creative one

My mother used to say, “Be careful what you wish for”

And sometimes that’s the cruelest kind of true

But sometimes it means it’s best

To never wish, at all

My mother said, “Without children there’s nothing to live for”

As I sat childless in my forties, her group of friends agreed

My husband was jettisoned from family gatherings, at the time

My mother used to say, “We go to family funerals just to make sure they’re dead.”

After decades ten minutes apart

I see my nephews every few years – haven’t been invited to be the Aunt Suzi they could know

Fortunately, like my brother got a namesake wife

They got a spare Aunt Suzi in the deal

She may be in Australia

But their whole childhood, when I saw them

My mother always said, “You remember your Aunt Suzi”

They’d nod their little heads, for years

Then insist that that their Aunt Suzi, was definitely not me

I’m 12 hours drive away now

And I’ve always hated the phone

Remembering the way all four of us

Couldn’t talk on it and stand

That curly connection to the kitchen phone, hard-wired to the wall

Was long enough to pace the floor, and stretched to several rooms

But I’m not a fucking Catholic

You can’t excommunicate me

I’ve had the same best friend for over fifty years

And geographical convenience means nothing to me

I’m THAT kind of Scorpio, five times in my chart

Sun, moon, rising, Neptune and mercury, Venus and mars in Sag

I’m a fixed object

underwater volcano

I’ve outlived airless magma underworlds

I’m not going anywhere

But mom says, “Why are we estranged?”

I didn’t know we were

My mom’s review of Titanic was, “Where the fucks an iceberg when you need one?”

When I was eleven she asked if there was anything about sex I wanted to know

“In a blow job, do you blow, or suck?”

The only question I had

“It’s just a figure of speech, Suzi.”  Mom said

Leaving it at that

I don’t know what she told Tony, and I guess I never will

But her gift to me of a painting, I’m sure she just thought it wasn’t good

But I love the thick red abstract, and what my mother said

Painted in black freehand

Her bloody painting said

“Today I felt like something red, so I ate my Mother’s heart“

“I could have a hundred lovers, if I could wear a blazer to bed”

My mother doesn’t write much

But that’s what her poem said

I’d think she’d know that blazers

Aren’t as alluring as she said

But I’ve got my own collection

Mama in my head

She wasn’t at all religious as a Jew

Crossed herself entering churches every time

“Bread and butter,” mom would say, every time there was a reason to drop my hand

 

Sacred No

No.

I said NO – if you only read it on the page, and didn’t know it in your heart

If you think you did, say it aloud, with me, right now

No.

Scream it until you mean it.

NO NO NO NO NO

I am a woman, and agreeable”is in my training

But what the fuck does Yes mean, if you cannot say NO

At 9, I saw an episode of “Love, American Style”

A hidden treatise on the subject

The perfect woman could do everything, and always look perfect while she did it

Speak perfect French, master cooking at the Cordon Bleu

Fix anything, build anything, engineering, mechanics, math and carpentry

plus all the feminine skills in history

Give the perfect blow-job, while detailing your car

Always say the perfect thing, and never give offense

Kill your adversaries with her brilliance, every hair in her coiffure in its intended place

Except that she was a robot

I thought it was my job

To be a woman just like her, and I tried extra hard

But I’m not some fucking Android, programmed to please

And no human is perfect – just thinking so is a disease

But small rebellions are the only type, every choice a prayer

Sometimes lots of people join us, but change happens one person at a time

Choosing to say yes or no

Yes, I will speak

No, I will not turn my back on a world of suffering

Yes, I will do the opposite of what I think I should

Say no thanks to the invitation, when every time before I thought it rude

Say yes to the terror, or yes to being brave

No to messages from the lizard heart in my brain

Yes to the kindness I deny myself

So I can say yes to the kindness I deny to youDDE99518-92A5-4203-B8A8-27BA386BA5D9

Poem in a Bottle

I squeeze myself into this reductive skin sack

Two dimensional hieroglyph of infinity

Tortured inadequate vocabulary on a page

Lacking the eloquence of ideograms

“Language is a virus from outer space”*

I am infected with the desire to communicate

I tweet poetry about nothing (or everything)

To no one
*William Burroughs