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Mood: Cloudy
Drinking: Lipton’s

There is a poster
on the park bench
shouting your name
in 24 point bold.

This is how I find out you are gone.

Your picture stares out
like you did in the flesh
just four days ago
when you saw me walking
toward you up the path.
Except that was your real smile
the one that came before
you called me sweetheart
before you buried me
in a bear hug.

The smile on the poster
is professional.
Frozen for keeps now.
You are on display this way
wearing that horrible mintgreen jacket.
White hair all windtossed.
Nika laying at your feet.

The poster is streaked and
wrinkled with rain.

I make a scene without meaning to.

This is what happens when you are dead.
The world does not end.
The clock does not stop.

Your friends raid your apartment
and take away your fake cherry TV tables.
Your melted pomegranate candles.
Your best glass serving platter.
Your broken dresser.
They take what they can use.
They take what they want.
The rest resides in a landfill.
The apartment still smells of smoke and dogs.
The apartment still smells of you.

If I had never seen the poster
I’d never know you were gone.
I could still call you and
leave a message.
And wait for you to call me back.
In my head, you’d be sitting
in your chair smoking
your cheap cigars.
You would still be within reach.

I attend the memorial service.

Standing in the wind
fog boiling up over the cliff.
An unattractive redhead talks about
putting a plaque on the bench
so everyone will know it’s yours.
“I just have to come up with some words,”
she says.
I have a collection

of all the right words, but I

do not want to share.
Her makeup is made up
of hard crayola lines.
Her roots are gray and brown.

Your brothers are here and awkward.
The fat one, he sits like you.
Pleasantries are exchanged.
Everyone speaks in cliches.
The dogs are here, too.
And Nika. She is dull. Diminished.
She pushes her great dark head
against my leg, against any leg
in her path, just so someone
will reach down and touch her.
But no one is you.

They scatter your ashes

on top of the dunes.
The wind spits gray flecks
into my face.
I think that they should
have flung your pieces
out over the ocean.
Now you are landlocked.
Mixed in with the dust
and the dog shit.

I cannot stand for it.
But I do not move.

Today my friend got a bulldog
named Winston.
He’s one foot tall and fifty pounds.
He looks like a furry brown tank.
He leans against his collar
like a sled dog straining for speed.
He pulls her down the sidewalk as if
she were a featherweight.
As if she were nothing.
Someone should teach him how to heel.
I start to recommend that she call you.
And then I remember.

So I meet her, instead.

In the park, by your bench.
I show her how to gather the leash
just so. How to stand. How to command.

I am sure you would tell me
I’m doing it wrong.

But I’m just trying to keep you alive.

-Lo, wishing they had payphones in the afterlife.

“Like Christians at a suicide”

Mood: sort of Antichrist Superstar
Drinking: imaginary Absinthe

London Bridge

There were 19 in one year
who succeeded in falling

It took some doing.

Because first they had to get there.
Had to find a spot in the lot.
Had to ride the bus.
Had to pay the fare.
It’s not like you just happen to end up
at the bridge on your way to the store.
You have to mean to be there.
You have to make a plan.
You have to navigate tourist traffic.
You have to walk out there on the span
and stare at Alcatraz. Watch the perfect little sailboats
bounce from wave to wave. Wait for wisps of fog
to float on by so you can get a good shot at the orange-red tower.

The experience is the main attraction.

You have to wonder if it was the first time for most
or had they done it all before? Did the urge to take a leap
just hit them in mid-stride or did they leave a note
before they left it all behind?

I want to know how hard it is to climb over the rail.

Does anyone ask you what you think you’re doing or
do they think it’s the perfect photo opp?
Do you take your time and make a scene
or do you rush into it, madly, like lovers at arrivals
with no eyes for anyone else.

At least you were somewhere really beautiful when you died.
You went out better than Marilyn.
Better than Elvis.
Falling down
beneath the blue-green waves
has got to be better than going out
with a bang. With a slice. With a swallow.
Hell, you don’t even have to string the rope,
tape the hose, close the door.
You just let go.

Maybe I’m giving you too much credit.
Maybe you’re just lazy.
Maybe it was all a misunderstanding.
An unfortunate accident somehow misconstrued as fate.
Maybe I make it all mean far too much.

After all, I’m the one standing safe
on the edge.
And you are the one falling down.

-Lo, who thinks that greeny absinthe color is really quite beautiful.

Waiting Rooms

Mood: Heavy eyelids
Drinking: Not enough water, I’m sure of it

No matter where I’m going or what I’m doing, I make it a habit to always, always, carry about some sort of writing utensil and something to write on. Sometimes I’m all organized and business-like and have my wicked little laptop along for the ride. Most of the time it’s the miniature comp book that hides in my bag. But sometimes, when I’m desperate, it’s the back of a bank envelope or napkin. Because I’ve realized that it’s disastrous to be caught unarmed. You never know when inspiration will come calling and you’ll need to take notes.

That’s how the previous post came about…I was stranded in one of those mandatory meetings that often happens when you collect your paycheck from some version of The Man. But I was prepared with paper and pen and began making a list of things I was waiting for.

And that reminded me of a silly little thing I wrote another time that I was stranded, waiting. This time it was in a doctor’s office. And I had my laptop along (that was back when it was all shiny and new and I took it absolutely everywhere). So I captured the whole experience as it so painstakingly unfolded.

So here’s a little Waiting Room for your viewing pleasure…

It’s a competition here
so we don’t look at one another
except to glare when someone
gets too close or stares too long
at your game of
The more people walk in the door to the left,
the more fierce the competition
to get in the door to the right.
We wordlessly jostle for the pole position.
We know who has been waiting the longest
and who is in the biggest hurry (that’s me)
and who can boast of the ugliest ailment.
The winner will be the first to get through that inner door.

A tall blonde walks in
but she is not one of the tempting ones.
She wears white ankle socks
and drags a dog behind–
an entirely unremarkable black colored lab
in a blue service jacket.
One of those special dogs that
supposedly opens doorknobs
and lets you know when Jimmy
has fallen down the well.
But this dog doesn’t do anything
except stand in the way and stare
and refuse to sit or lay or
do anything Anklesocks tells it to do.
And she explains to us all (we didn’t ask)
that the dog flunked out of seeing eye school
on the very first day and
I am not surprised.

But now everyone suddenly feels the need
to bond, to talk about it in those simpering
baby voices that people use
to talk to dogs and children and the very, very old.
The condescending googoo voices
that make you want to punch someone.

And I am in a punching mood.
Such a punching mood.

The room smells of sweat and
unwashed t-shirts
and the fat boy across the room
keeps on babbling to the reject guide dog
until even Anklesocks is annoyed and tries to
change the subject.

I’ve just decided that the fat boy and
the sour smell definitely go together when
he catches me staring.
He points across the room and squeals,
“Hey, a computer! Those things are good to have!”
I give him the look that I reserve for
special occasions, but he appears to be impervious.

I’ve been waiting here now for 30 minutes
and I’m not going to wait 30 more.
I’ve spent most of my life avoiding rooms like this one.
Pale and stale with uncomfortable chairs
and too many clammy bodies and hands.
I don’t have to be here. I could just get up and leave.

Except the nurse suddenly appears and is calling my name.

-Lo, who really has a good shot at being crowned Miss Anthrope of the USA.

Bored Now

Mood: Patient
Drinking: Snappley juice

i’m waiting for the perfect question.
The one that will turn all the tumblers
and set your secrets free.

i’m waiting for a sidewalk stranger
to scream my name from across the street.
i’m waiting for a warm rain.

i’m waiting for the darkness to get domesticated.
To lose its teeth. Velvet its paws.
i’m waiting for a window to open into an entirely new world.
i’m waiting for her to find her own bootstraps and give them a tug.
i’m waiting for the apocalypse to arrive with a blinding flash, with a roar.
(i expect it to come from behind.)

i’m waiting for my pen to stop bleeding.
i’m waiting for a subtle knife.
i’m waiting for that geriatric smell,
for the sudden onslaught of age spots, curlers
and paper skin.

i’m waiting for him
to send a long, hard look in my general direction.
i’m waiting for the sleeping pills to fail.
i’m waiting for this, too, to pass.

i’m waiting for her to stop talking.

(i’ve been waiting for quite awhile.)
i’m waiting for a train that runs beneath the ocean.
fish will fly by the windows
and deep sea divers will stare.
and we’ll reach out and grab strands
of greenish-blue kelp to wind in our hair.

i’m waiting for permission to scream.
i’m waiting for proof of spontaneous combustion.
i’m waiting for the wind to blow me over. i’ll know, then, that I am thin enough.

i’m waiting for the phone to ring with voices from beyond the grave.

i’m waiting for him to come on strong.
i’m waiting for an occasion with a dress code.
An excuse for tulle and a tiara.
i’m waiting for a microphone that’s just the right height.
i’m waiting for them to start playing my song.

i’m waiting for the voices in my head to say something nice.
i’m waiting for the right time to tell you it’s all gone horribly wrong.

i’m waiting for the medication to kick in.

i’m waiting for him to give me a reason to stay for the encore.
i’m waiting for her to blink so I can finally make my escape.
i’m waiting for a slow, slow death.

i’m waiting for the paint to dry so I can peel it off my nails.
i’m waiting for flu season to live up to the hype.
i’m waiting for fair play to turn about, already.

i’m waiting for the oxygen mask to drop
so I can show my rebel colors
and put yours on first.

i’m waiting for tall black boots with just the right amount of swagger.
i’m waiting for more men to start wearing makeup.
i’m waiting for her to make good on the threats.

i’m waiting for the Christians to say they were wrong.
(i’m waiting for icicles in hell.)

i’m waiting for my state to secede from the union.
i’m waiting for the Big One.

i’m waiting for my so-called-life to get an NC-17.
i’m waiting for the sun to burn out altogether.
i’m waiting for a crime of passion.

i’m waiting for him to give me a reason to give a shit.
i’m waiting for the pop stars to die off.
i’m waiting for her to make a mistake.

i’m waiting for inspiration to strike me dead.
(She’s always running late and forgetting the lightning bolts.)

i’m waiting for a mission to mars,
a ride to the moon,
an entirely uneventful spacewalk.

i’m waiting for him to admit that he did it.
i’m waiting for something to hold on to.
i’m waiting for the reunion tour so I can see just how fat she is in real life.
i’m waiting for shock treatment to come back in vogue.

i’m waiting for a ghost to materialize.

i’m waiting for the endorphins or amphetamines or
whatever will make this all worthwhile.
i’m waiting for it all to go on sale.
i’m waiting for my dog to speak.

i’m waiting for a burning bush.
i’ll also take a still, small voice.
a cloud, a dove.
Some kind of sign that’s sent from above.

i’m waiting for my eyesight to fail me completely while turning left at the light.
i’m waiting for the flavor of the month to be mine.
i’m waiting for reality to get less entertaining.
i’m waiting for her 15 minutes to finally expire.
i’m waiting for Jesus to get interesting again.
i’m waiting to get contagious.

i’m waiting for the final bell to toll so I can gather my skirts and run for the door.
i’m waiting for a confession of depression that has a happy ending.
i’m waiting for the check to clear the room.

i’m waiting for the bittersweet
to get a bit sweeter.

i’m waiting for the afterglow
to burn brighter.

i’m waiting for the dark horse
to lighten up.

i’m waiting for you to get the joke.

(This could take awhile…)

-Lo, who gets so very bored during long, pointless meetings.

Fifth Floor, Second Door

Mood: Distracted
Drinking: Chai

i see you put on your strength
as you walk down the hall,
you pull on your armour,
gauntlet and all.

we wait for you at the nurse’s station
clutching brown bags
of clean underwear
and purple eyeshadow.
just enough to get you through another week.

you look so calm and so together
in your thorazine sweater
handing out hugs and smiles
left and right
thick and fast.
we have no time to get suspicious.

you throw up a lipgloss smokescreen
and lay down machine-gun chatter.
it’s sleight of hand.
it’s marines on command.
and we are taken by surprise
we are all mesmerized.

because you seem just fine.
you seem yourself.
in fact, you’re the very picture
of rehabilitated health.

so we ask all the wrong questions.
and you give all the right answers.
this is what everyone wants, anyway.
polite conversation.
diversionary tactics.
pretty stories with witty punchlines.

visiting hours are over at four o’clock
and then the doors lock.
so we all fall in line. we laugh
with the track. you have captured
your audience. you’ve occupied your territory.
you’ve palmed everyone
except for me.

yes, darling, i can see you.
oh, i can see right through you.

but you needn’t worry.
don’t hold your breath.
i didn’t bring any horses.
and i will not call the cavalry.
there are no medics and no morphine
tucked away in my coat pockets.
believe me, i’m not here to rescue you.

so you can lay down your arms.
you can stop the charade.
let’s just be two girls together
on a sunday afternoon.
just two dark girls together,
that’s all i’ll ever ask of you.

Twas the night…

Mood: All is calm
Drinking: ‘Nog

It’s the night before Christmas, and I have a secret to tell you.

It’s a secret about poetry, about my kind of poetry, so really it’s not all that scintillating or scandalous. It’s just this: Happiness is bad for business.

What I mean is this…I write better poetry when I am miserable. My kind of thing calls for some anger, some angst, some awful atrocities, whether real or imagined. It just brings out the juice, the muse, the inspiration. My favorite poets had awful lives. They were depressed and drunk and suicidal. They were alone and lonely and had only their genius to keep them company. And they were brilliant. Their words are amazing.

(Rabbit Trail: I remember when I was getting ready to get married, I kept feeling like I was choosing to give something up. Not the “freedom” or whatever of being single, but the possibility of being a Great Poet. Something inside me kept saying that if I chose Boy, if I chose to make my life with a man who loved me and was willing to put up with all the melodrama, all the bullshit, all the darkness that I dream up–and all the darkness that I don’t–if I was choosing that kind of life, I was going to sacrifice something when it came to writing. I was going to have something besides my pen to assuage my pain. I’m not saying that if I had kept on going alone that I would have been this phenomenal genius. It just felt like a very real choice at the time. And I’m not unhappy with my decision. I do have both…my muse didn’t leave me when the ring slid down my finger. And I may write less poems per month than I used to, but I still write. They still come on their little cat feet, and that is all that matters.)

About this whole happy poem thing, though, I will confess that I have written a few of the smiley kinds of poems, but I usually keep them hidden in the drawer. I think I have one or two that actually work, that I’ll let out of the house.

It’s just that, to me, a lot of happy poetry ends up sounding like Hallmark. All schmaltzy and saccharine. And Hallmark might work for a certain type o’ people, but it doesn’t work for me and mine. When I’m happy, I don’t need poetry the way I need it when I’m not. When I’m not, it’s only the mainlining of words, the delicious drowning in ink, that keeps me sane.

So on this tranquil and bright Christmas Eve, I am incapable of writing a decent poem. At this moment, sitting in the half-lit living room beneath a pile of blankets, I am deepy, completely content.

I’ve got my wicked little laptop all glowing at me on the couch and my sleepy dog with her adorable paws smelling of Fritos. I’ve got my beautiful Boy sleeping in the other room. I’ve got a tank full of fishes all lazily floatin’ around and a tree full of white lights and ribbons. I’ve got cool socks that say “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. I’ve got a camera full of irreplaceable photos from the day just spent. I’ve got a tiny bit of sunburn from the beaches at Pt. Reyes and some leftover sand in my shoes.

I’ve got a full moon in the sky. I’ve got the N-train rolling past, full of Christmas Eve-ers with presents. I’ve got a week full of promise ahead.

I’ve got my parents on a plane on their way here to see me. I’ve got my sister coming my way, too. I’ve got my darling little C coming back from Chicago and phone messages full of glee from Miss Diddley-doo to return. (She knows who she be.)

I’ve got an Ugly Doll from S and a feathery red purse from the B’s. They both know me well enough to get a gift that ain’t on the wish list and completely delight me. That’s a rare and wonderful thing.

I’ve got dangly, spangly earrings and the ticking of a grandfather clock. I’ve got shelves full of books and a freshly-painted house. I’ve got everything I need and then just a little bit extra, on the side.

This is happiness, pure and complete. This is contentment. This is the moment. And I will relish it and wallow in it and tuck it away in my pocket so I can pull it out and stare at it when things look a bit more grim and gray.

Christmastime. I used to dread it for so long. It always seemed to be so lonely and disappointing and terribly futile. And here I am all grown-up and giddy and full of good cheer. I definitely cannot write a poem tonight.

-Lo, who, in addition to peace and tranquility, seems to be really into alliteration this evening, as well.