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wine & iron
Getting set to go to N’Marco’s –
a night of poetry and pizza –
there’s a call from my father
on Jordan’s phone. (How did he
get this number anyway?)
Raeann had warned me, uncertainly,
that a storm was coming;
but I thought the clouds were
in her sky, not mine.
Then he decries my whole existence –
my choices, my days and nights,
my breathe-in-breathe-out love;
if I don’t leave him,
I give up my family.
I’m afraid to tell Jordan
what we might be getting into.
I’m afraid of my father
drawing me back into
my meek childhood.
What kind of fucked up, twisted,
blister-assed bitch does it take
to do the kind of thing you did?
What right did you have to make
a judgment call on my life?
Ran out of your own woes
to chew Prozac over,
so you took up mine instead.
You thought about, made assumptions
on, and conjured up wicked images
of my body, my heart, destroying
my world from the outside in –
none of it yours to begin with.
You opened the curtains
to my secrets, invited my family
as an audience. Critics’ review:
loose-lipped bitches should
keep their mouths shut.
She calls me often now,
like she does from time to time,
talking not just as my sister, but as
myself, an angel, a guardian almost.
I love how we ache together –
always, nerves and wounds bound.
She’s making sure I’m okay
over and over again.
“Yeah, I’m okay… Yeah,
I’m okay… Are you…
Too much crying, too much anger..
Raeann, you and I are
a family within a family;
we rescue what they can’t save.
(Can we save ourselves?)
Your calls are the only ones
I accept now; your voice,
the only one I want to bring tears.
I did another Wednesday slam –
initially because Barbara wouldn’t
have it any other way; she made it
my grade. Later I knew it was done
because I needed to find the strength
of my voice again; I needed
to rescue my words from
Met some guy – Glenn? – who I’d
seen listening attentively in
the audience, jotting down notes
and phrases that dangled in the air.
He’s some sort of… kinesthesiologist?
Writing since the 70’s, but only
recently fell in love with
Generously complimenting, he asks
that I come to Canyon Moon,
see their poets, share myself.
I talked to Kim today. Sort of.
(Why is it we question our
communication when we write
a letter – as though it’s less of
an expression? I suppose it is
I told her thanks for nothing,
for ruining my life as I know it.
I said I recognized a spitefulness
in what she did. I should’ve
mentioned an ignorance too.
I took my microwave, fridge,
hard drive for my computer
(like revoking privileges, favors,
I guess?). We are separate now
by space and time and perception,
by everything within us.
My trust is locked
in a storage box.
I've got hair lying all over
this apartment, long strands of me
carpeting the carpet, threads of my
head blanketing the bed. I could
almost build a fucking pet from it,
maybe a wig to donate for cancer.
I've loved the look of long hair
forever, and still I blame Raeann
for converting me, going from her
ear-length mushroom crop to a
middle-of-the-back mane that stretches
like thick lacquered planks.
I know girls who have chopped off
their locks, to escape vanity, afraid
no one saw a face or name, only how
the hair framed it all.
bad news; lock down; head shot;
green thumb; whirling dervish; fish fry;
deviled egg; brain power; flower power;
headlock; blueprint; swordfish.
purple haze; windy city; gossip on
the grapevine; tangled hair; blisters;
mirth; red petals; brown leaves; hyper;
mud tracks; sleeping in; hardy boys.
underdeveloped; princess cut; putrid;
shell shock; twisted tryst; rock ‘n roll;
shallow water; memory bank; uterus;
croutons; blue crush; opiate; dream weaver;
varnished; pro bono; treetop; jackal; crass;
cowhide; bend over; vertical; simpleton;
excruciating; weasel; dogmatic; proof
of life; douchebag; yeah, douchebag;
bolivia; endocrine; capillary; judgment;
principal; gypsy; carnivore; gigantic;
blood. bag. piehole. yadda yadda yadda.
Angie, it’s your birthday today.
I wonder how many more years
I will remember the day as yours
before I forget.
I picture you celebrating with
a child now, with a grandmother
instead of your mother. I wonder
if your relationship is any different
with your brothers.
Can you see filth on Mikey’s hands
like a forensics alchemy that makes
washed blood glow in neon?
I thanked God you had an infant son,
thanked God you didn’t have to warn
a growing daughter about an uncle
who strays wayward,
like your mother once
had to tell you.
Happy 21st, Fusco-girl.
I’ll never remember all the things
you said today. Trust me, Dad,
that makes you lucky,
a circumstance in your favor.
Run through your heavy artillery then –
call your police pals,
call Jordan’s folks and spread
this evil word.
Line me up with the likes of
Bill Soares, a best friend dropped
for reefer lungs in God’s family;
you’ve gotten good at
moral judge, first -
You even hung up on me,
to keep from saying something bad,
you say; I wonder what and
wish you’d spoken.
What does it matter?
Your tongue already has me
I was so excited about it –
your wedding, Niki. I was elated
at the thought of you in a gown,
in love, regarding a ring with as much
worth as your grandfather’s. For you
to want me to be up there with you –
But plans are changing. I’m fending
for myself, narrowing my choices.
I don’t have the money to buy
your bridesmaid dress. I wouldn’t
miss the ceremony, but I’m inclined
to sit in a back pew alone, wish you
the best with warm smiles from
my silent distance, dodge away
before we start questioning
each other’s lives.
My memory isn’t worth shit.
I try to tell people that soon into
meeting them; you’ve known
I forgot your birthday, Raul.
It’s not something either of us
truly cares about. I wish
I’d remembered nonetheless.
I remember when I would mix up
yours and Angie’s, the 7th and 8th.
I couldn’t understand why it was
hard to keep straight – back then,
you were my favorite sibling.
I guess affections don’t trigger
I’m not even sure how old… 24?..
You’re getting so far ahead of me,
I think, not to mention the fact
that I’m shrinking…
Professor Victoria Enders.
Even her name mirrors
soft female class. I’m so glad
to have met her, learned from her.
For some reason, I always want
to call her a woman-child.
She is delicate with her voice,
gushing with toothy true smiles.
Her laughter sounds happy to find
reason to come alive each time.
When she tells a story and quotes,
she makes straight-fingered
scissor chops in the air
for quotation marks, meekly
nods in response to herself.
A feminist and culturalist,
I like to imagine her in Spain,
eating dates and plums in
Moroccan outfits and
In my childhood, I could never
understand the tempers of
Ray and Raeann. They would get
so angry, so boiled, they would
scream the most foolish things
at our parents.
I thought they’d lost their minds,
hate spewing like rocks from teeth.
I couldn’t fathom even
thinking in hate.
I don’t hate my folks now, but
I certainly understand Ray’s
easy tongue; I see why it came
with ease to scream out
the blackness I bit down…
I’d never had my father scream
his own rage at me – not directly,
not so cuttingly.
All feelings shatter then,
all emotional containers.
"I have the right to look at
a naked chick... aesthetically..."
(you roll your eyes with mine)
"... and be able to say 'Nice tits'
without it meaning I would
do this or that..."
Aesthetically? You've got to be
fucking kidding me, right?
Where is the respect for us when
you let some girl shove her tits
in your face, stick bills in
her thong while she pretends to
give a damn who you are for a
few-minute stretch of nudity...
How dare you be so selfish,
to argue that right.
Your sex repulses me;
you feel as cold as ice.
The only girl I know who advertises
her birthday like it’s the
birth of Christ; this year, even
mailed a birthday wishlist, like
we’re all in red suits, gonna sit
on our laps.
Poor Dove… doesn’t see
This isn’t how to measure love.
She’ll line up her birthday cards
and giftboxes, make it a record
Poor dope… She’ll be upset
for my simple note a day late.
But I have nothing more to send,
no obligation to timeliness.
Glad you were born 17 years ago.
But I wasn’t in mourning when
you died to me 17 years later.
Jordan’s talking to his mother,
telling her things we’d planned to say
in time, along with some we’d rather
not have to.
She now knows I’ve been living
with her son, drinking and smoking
(she knew before), even our illegalities.
“You should cut out the pot, y’know…
gives her father more reason
to call you immoral…”
And that was the worst of it;
all was well.
Now she’s housing, feeding, making
a Christmas for me when I
After dinner, I tasted his mother’s food
in my mouth all night, wondered
what kind of daughter she
would have raised.
I got an email from mom,
Two simple lines:
“Call Niki at --- about the wedding.
Raeann’s been in the hospital. Got out today.
Remember we love you. –mom”
That was it, like telepathy’s supposed
to fill in the rest. Or guilt
more likely. I’m supposed to feel fault
for my parents choosing to not
contact me, even about this…
I know what a family is.
I know what love is. And, to tell the truth,
I could see my father’s own God
disappointed that he lets his pride
make him forget.
God, Raeann, I’m praying
for your safety.
I’m sick and fucking tired of
talking about, dealing with,
pissing over this ordeal with
my folks, with Kim. I find myself
constantly seeing ways it could’ve
Alex explained his knowledge
in some journal, nothing detailed.
Found out Sheila put in her
two cents with Kim’s. They agreed,
I guess, about my neglect? drinking?
that I look undone, strung-out
when they see me on campus?
“I know what hungover looks like.”
That was Kim’s solid defense.
Alex understands me on this,
though says nothing I’m sure.
It doesn’t matter
at this point anyway;
there’s no taking this back.
I wrote my parents, asked them to
please fill me in, please let me know
why Raeann was in the hospital.
I was pleading for anything;
they don’t write back.
I called Ray… couldn’t remember
the last time I had. I was praying
he was working, wasn’t home to have
this conversation in front of my parents.
He answered; out shopping, maybe.
I asked about Raeann.
“I’m not really sure what happened…
She just got some kind of infection.”
Part of me was relieved
he knew so little – because
it meant less serious? Because
I could be as guiltlessly clueless?
Zen thoughts while eating
a turkey sandwich at 2am.
Gotta watch out for them
Someone once told me that Kevin Bacon
looks like an anorexic pig.
I dreamt that Kim?s sister was
my new roommate.
Every time he names people in the room,
he only acknowledges the males. Prick.
Why couldn?t video games have been
invented two decades later?
He offered to fly me to Seattle again,
this time truly as the friend
I once knew.
He likes to take hookers to deserted
alleys, then gets the car shakin?; then
he blows their heads off.
Should be three movies
for one, but we only ever see two,
and sometimes don’t even pay
for the first.
How odd that I wait until
I’m considered an adult to pull things
like this, never had the balls to
do it when I was younger;
I found no thrill in risk.
Even now, it’s not so much
that I grew balls as that I realized
the insignificance of so many
consequences – slaps on the wrist
I used to see as jail sentences.
(Do I blame my father
for that as well?)
$7 a pop is rape anyway.
Jordan hit another buzzword.
(But for how many girls is
‘psycho girlfriend’ not a
buzzword?) Sure it was in part
said in jest… And the part
that wasn’t? The part that wasn’t
made me want to find a hollow
boulder to hide in or under or…
It makes me think of Ray’s Kara.
Psycho was an understatement for
her – threatening to run them off
the road into walls, cars, death;
stalking his truck and window
by night; pressing scissors
to his flesh.
I hear the label, knowing I’m not
Kara, but still something you’d like
to strangle now and then.
Barb and Mike are headed to California.
for Christmas, so the holiday business
is going on tonight.
After dinner, we sat in the living room
to open gifts. Jordan and I had already
checked the tags, shaken the boxes.
I open up to jeans and a crinkled
pink top, socks, slippers (for
that icebox of a house).
The look on Jordan’s face says
he knows his mom’s done good.
I’m shocked speechless, feeling a
hotness in my eyes that’s
starting to sting.
My tongue is swollen.
Mutely fingering wrapping paper,
I think about my family and
blink away the sting.
Jordan’s bi-annual Christmas Eve
No doubt everyone’s going to show up –
it’s the highlight of the holidays after
all the month’s jingle belling bullshit.
Pool, pot, video games, playing
Asshole with cheap beer downstairs.
Cory dozed off early, got a makeover
in my lipstick while he slept.
I left a message for Raeann,
briefly hoping she might call back,
consider coming over for awhile.
I imagine her and Dad watching movies
while Ryan’s talking about his dog
for what feels like hours.
Christmas never meant so little to me.
My feet are always cold.
Jordan found some fine-lined drawing
of stealth bombers the other night in
Pat's room while stripping the place
for things to claim.
I wrapped it up, even tied some ribbon
around it, and slid an amiable note beneath
the knot. Raeann returned my call
with a message: they'll be home for
most of the day, that she and mom
and dad miss me, want me back home.
'Not true' I think, and
the message ends.
At ten o'clock at night, I tiptoe
up to our door, feeling like I'm
trespassing to leave a gift, knowing
it won't be acknowledged.
I was watching something called
Music Choice, some preview into a
documentary of Dave Matthews' tour.
I watch for awhile, turn it up when
he mentions Seattle and the Gorge.
They show film clips of the concert
and set up, get stories from the guys.
I keep noting how similar one of
them looks to Noel.
The next thing I know, they're
showing Dave at side stage. He's
fingering away at some little guitar,
and it seems curiously familiar.
I hear beats in the background,
smile to see Dave thanking Noel
for his drumwork just before
the clip fades black.
Jordan surprised me with news about
a gift earlier, something I could
choose but might not take home
that day. We stay up a few mornings
in a row, first to show up at 10am
at the Humane Society,
ready to adopt. I spot two charcoal
grey short-hairs, smoothing themselves
along the glass for attention.
We take the female, with yellow eyes
and a post-surgery shaved belly,
into another room. She purrs
strong like a diesel engine, kneads
at our laps. I feel like a little
girly, silly kid, can't stop
saying in my head
"She's the perfect gift..."
Jordan talked to his mom, or vice versa
rather, about us.
No more sleeping in the same bed.
Take her to church if she wants,
and go with her. Take her
to junk stores, to anywhere...
just do something.
I can see her reading ahead, taking
precautionary steps for
her son's sake.
At dinner she stresses doing things
I enjoy, saying a girl will only take
so much of so little before she
goes her separate way.
I'm laughing, falling in love with Jordan's
mother and her female intuition,
wondering how much of what she says
he takes to heart.
I went to church for the first time
since summer. I?d thought about
going for Christmas, but wouldn?t
have gone at all if it weren?t for
Barbara?s suggestion via Jordan.
I kept telling Jordan he didn?t
have to go, mostly because I knew
he was doing it against his will,
and kept hearing him say
?Church makes me angry...?
So I went alone, feeling it best,
like the last thing I wanted to dwell on
was his response to my faith.
I cried during the singing,
expectedly, wishing I?d called
my sister, wishing I had more than
Jordan?s insincerity today.
Here comes a new year,
and somehow it’s even more
welcome than the last.
Maybe I’ll stop biting my nails;
start reading the newspaper again;
manage a budget that includes savings;
raise the coolest fucking cat alive;
be satisfied with one goddamn slam;
eat less frozen food; pick up the phone
more often; get tied up; start writing
like I have a pair; sew all the holes and
runs in my almost dying clothes; think
about Michael’s truth; stop envisioning
my death every time I set foot in
a car; find a turquoise charm.
Here’s to good intentions,
Jesus Christ, I’m going crazy.
I mean, I must be out of my mind if
that just happened. (did it
really just happen?)
I heard a voice, HER voice…
I was standing naked in front of
the mirror after a shower,
looking at a living body.
My mind was on this…
December theme – my lifestyle,
my existence being called
‘I cannot just tell my parents
I’m not their kind of Christian anymore,
that I might end up a woman who
lives and loves and writes
by no bounds..’
But you are…
My life spoke.
The Tip Jar