So, did you let your children go to school
out of state? See, it’s only recently
we (that is, I) have realized where we
went wrong, jumped the track, so to speak.
We let them think they had a choice, could dream,
could choose their own path, their own life, when what
we wanted all along was that they choose
us. Well, me. My husband here does not agree.
Or, even more annoyingly, will not
say that he agrees, even if he does.
I’m too controlling, right? No. Wrong again.
But, see, to be freely chosen—we all
long for that—don’t we? I did’t choose to
feel this way about them. It just happened.
My tragedy? My husband chooses me,
but I choose them and they choose others,
callow girls of no particular charm.
They can’t hold a candle to me, my
ferocity undiminished by time—
in fact, concentrated, a gas leak waiting
to be lit and then—whoa!—watch out, sister!
I know. I KNOW! I can not win this fight,
yet fight I must. How can they forget me
like this, when all I can do any more
is remember them, remember when
they needed me and only me, without
me, they would have died. Or so it seems.
Now I need them to graciously pretend
Pretend I’m needed when I’m not, not now
anyhow, I serve as ornamental,
the family—all three generations
represented in this photo—see? That’s
me. I look the same in every picture,
my function fossilized, effectiveness
neutralized. They won’t listen to me!
I know what’s best for them, for me, they turn
their backs, wave me away, no agency
is left to me in this world. I don’t want
to leave them to it. They are so young,
so inexperienced in what decades
will throw at you. As if you get to choose
who to love and how and when to stop.
Her body, sharp points separated by
soft mounds of flesh. It’s her body, but his
story. Her ribs are his ladder up her
breastbone. Her tendons flying buttresses
holding up her head for him. Her heavy
water balloon breasts menace her Champs de
Mars abdomen, a Plain of Abraham
of conflicts old. Her thighs, thick, sinuous,
arrest his breath. The dimple of navel
rings all the bells in his head, heart, groin.
He positions her just so to create
the effect he wants to feel. Beautiful.
He has brought his taste forward, highlighted.
After the shutter clicks, she lowers her
arms, steps away and picks up her brush.
He has stolen nothing from her that she
has not freely given. She feels his awe
as communication. She paints back.
R. says her poetry is so beautiful,
clearest yet of all her writing.
J. says he’s sure her poetry will
“inform” her other writing.
B. says her stories are strange,
but about such an interesting person.
Y. says her talent is social,
which is to say, not narrative.
L. says she is not a prude,
but is it a good idea to go on record
using the f-word so freely?
N. hints that perhaps she doesn’t
realize how self-revelatory these passages are.
D. is certain that these new pieces
are a departure from her usual fare.
P. finds her characters enervating,
the denouements unearned.
She finds R., J., B., Y., L., N., D. and P.
to be full of
Be yourself, they said
but over here
and in our shadow
as long as that’s “yourself”
I can get you to like me, I can’t get you to read my poetry.
I can get you to read my poetry, I can’t get you to like it.
I can get you to like it, I can’t get you to engage with it.
I can get you to engage with it, I can’t get anyone to publish it.
I can get someone to publish it, I can’t get people to buy it.
I can get people to buy it, I can’t get them to like me.
1. I am a really happy person.
2. You can’t make me do anything.
3. I have told someone all my secrets.
4. Even the ones I didn’t tell anyone for a long time weren’t really bothering me. I just didn’t think my family would understand or could take them as calmly as I did.
5. I call my family’s culture The Fetish. I refuse to continue their cult.
6. My mother thinks I don’t love her when I refuse her invitations. It’s not true. I just don’t want to do the things she suggests.
7. I ‘m not embarrassed by what other people are embarrassed by. I don’t know why. No one has been able to install guilt or shame in me. This makes me either a Sufi saint or a sociopath. Depends on your point of view, not mine.
8. I suffer from intellectual snobbery so steep no one comes up to my standards. Also triumphalism. I don’t know it all. Just what’s important to me, because I have made it my business to find out. Why haven’t you?
9. I think my body looks fine. I don’t care if you don’t think so.
10. Glib isn’t the only way to be smart.
11. I am a really happy person.
How much further could she lean in?
Already her nose is scraping the cement.
What further proofs of her intent could be required?
Women’s stories just seem stupid, don’t they?
What self-respecting person would continually put others first?
Indeed. Who would?
This is the one where the X chromosome gets matched with another X chromosome and then it’s your job to do the dishes.
This is the one where his anger is righteous and yours is just hysteria.
This is the one where “good” means obedient, but the master is a tyrant—like God.
This is the one where if you get a spouse and/or a child, you lose all right to complain about other injustices.
This is the one where being a woman trapped in a man’s body is more tragic than being a woman in the first place.
This is the one where you get raped, but then you feel guilty, like you were the rapist.
This is the one where everybody stands around watching you get abused and they do nothing.
This is the one where you get accused of having no empathy for the very people who have none for you.
This is the one where the script gets changed so fantasy revenge can be realized.