The Color of Skinny
Before Dad went to work,
he made me scrambled eggs
and poured hot cocoa into my pink plastic cup.
After Dad kissed me goodbye, I watched cartoons
and waited for the smell of Mommy’s first cigarette.
She gave me a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese.
I kept the breakfast secret until my sister woke up early,
caught me heading to the freezer with a tablespoon to dig
into a forgotten ice cream cake.
Chubby tits at five, plaid dresses hardly covered me.
Mom wanted to feed me diet pills, Dad didn’t approve.
He switched from eggs to Metrecal when he didn’t get promoted.
Mom told Dad to wear solid colored ties as a fat disguise.
I wasn’t my svelte mother who once modeled lingerie
for men on a two-martini lunch.
Dad provided shelter and mom’s cigarettes. Mom finally banished
Santa Claus jolly Dad to a memory. My sister is the color of skinny.
No black and white cookies for us, in need of little food
we scrape by feeling our own bony ribs.
I know not to sit by a window
during a tornado—
my closet closeting leather pocketbooks from Spain
shelters me in place.
I do like a window seat on an airplane
especially over the wing
I watch the flaps open with the lift—
steel pelicans gliding in the velocity.
I am in seat 14a, like Jennifer was.
I picked this seat rather than seat 13a,
silly I know.
It was in this seat, this airline
when the window exploded and Jennifer was partially sucked out.
What did she think in the ether? Who held her feet?
The magic of ruby slippers—
the stews pulled her back in but she died
when they landed in Philadelphia.
Ah, Philadelphia, a place hated by W.C. Fields.
How much is her loss worth?
There are tables in law books that measure the monetary loss
of a young person vs a grandma, an arm vs a leg.
When I was little my mother made me play outside when
she was having a bad day. I lost a Doris Day paper doll
in the vortex of the March wind. I was inconsolable.
My mother put me in the broom closet among the moth balls
and the Borax. She shut me up with a hairbrush and made me swear
not to tell my father when he came home from work.
She apologized and told me she lost it
like a paper doll sucked up in a maelstrom.
Sorry, Not Sorry
Define muscle memory—
Expect a beating
List the things in your medicine cabinet:
Advil, betadine cream, peroxide
ace bandages, Xanax.
Body, I am sorry for the damage done,
the bruise tattoos, the broken things
that cannot be fixed.
Mea Culpa, I beat my chest
savaged by bites and burns.
Do you like being a martyr?
The question my therapist asks me.
Sometimes I stain her checks with my blood.
How do you plead?
Innocent in the court of popular opinion.
Define muscle memory—
My hands remember what to do with a gun.
The Cootie Factor
23 and Me traced my daughter back to the Neanderthals,
not much of a surprise, her father was a caveman
In the bible it’s who begot whom
We are all related
In the Kevin Bacon game
we are all six degrees of separation
Facebook has shown we are all connected
We are the world—
old Coke commercial
hands touching hands in a global group hug
Mi casa is your casa
My germs are your germs
Covid19 has jumped from bats to humans
This butterfly affects us all
My family practices social distancing
we sleep in isolettes
keep the windows shut
to shut out the boogey man
Some of my fb friends are doing a Hail Mary chain
1,000 Hail Marys to vanish the virus
Good luck to them
I unfriend them all
I call my brick- and- mortar peeps
invite them over for wine and Scrabble
It’s not you, they say,
it’s who you might have been in contact with:
The bank teller, the supermarket cashier,
it’s who you kissed or fist bumped
It’s Billy Bones and the black spot
the unwanted treasure that kept my child-body up at night
I am back in first grade
Tag, you’re it and cooties
It is a war with an unseen enemy
it’s starts with a cough and a chill
and ends with the choice of who is worth saving
Left ripped open on Cemetery Road—
you deserve this darkness
Snow’s white blanket highlights your shame
You can walk back to your dorm or you can call your mother—
there are still bars left on your cell phone—miraculous reception
You can start walking the farm roads, parallel to I95,
your cold bare feet burn into numbness
you can hitchhike downstate—
You can look for your car keys someone threw at you
leaving a bloody cleft on your dried cherry lips
You remember the black void
but not where you parked your car
You remember a farmhouse light then the nothing
John Wheelock, first cemetery inhabitant
laughs at your fever while he died from one
—Or you can wait till morning
go to class, hungover and crusty with ice and heat—
like it never happened
You are a warm stone in my waist band
massaging my back as I climb up hill
A cooked sweet potato blanketed in aluminum foil
a perfect food for a biker
This fall day the leaves are orange
you are an orange moon
a noon day snack for a long ride
We are hidden, traffic is a whistle miles away
an occasional horse passes on the trail
My bike a whisper, greased and ready
just me and an orange Bianchi
I remember orange curtains in my mother’s kitchen
and the anger that purpled there
Agent orange peeled off skin burnt orange by fire,
fathered limbless babies
My father tried to comfort with food
he would quarter a navel orange
zest spitting in our spitting kitchen
I would suck in the juicy insides
escape on my bike
tonguing the fleshy membrane
lodged between my teeth