If We Were Me

If we were me, we would cut our toenails

as needed

and not a week later.

This is common courtesy.

We would prize efficiency above fury.

If we were me, we would carry old hearts,

soft, inside ourselves– ancestors, mentors–

memorial reminders.

If we were me, humor would be darker, more sarcastic,

and there would be more head shaking.

Hyperbolic enthusiasm for that which is standard would be considered poor manners.

Reluctance would win over revelation, for the protection of the innocent.

There would be much less talking and much more writing.

If we were me,”okay” would be said too often.

Nothing would be said, also too often.

If we were me, we would wish to fight our battles for justice soberly,

in ways that honor our dignity and the dignity of our neighbors.

If we were me, about half of our collective thoughts would be critical of

society, individuals, justice, or home decor.

If we were me, we would truly want to be

the adults that we promised ourselves we’d be as kids,

and try to make that kid’s vision real.

If we were me, our cars would all be full of dog hair.

Peanut butter would sell out.

If we were me, we would move our shopping carts

to the side of the aisle and notice each other

when we’re trying to get to the yogurt cooler.

If we were me, the other half of our thoughts

would center around our mortality, ethics, and spirituality,

though those thoughts would often stay in that realm, not reality.

If we were me, we would wonder about our lives in parallel dimensions,

whether they exist, and decide to be glad of living in this one.

If we were me, we would avoid ending this entry,

and in so doing, avoid going to the gym.


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Unstoppable is this woman’s, so called, conversation.

It’s really not conversation because to converse means “to share verse with”.

This thing is more along the lines of “to make words-noise in company”.

This flower is just so beautiful.  Hasn’t the weather been so lovely, perfect!

This photograph is just breathtaking.  Your vacation will be indescribable.

Really?  Okay, well, first of all, that is a flower.  They’re pretty much all beautiful.

(Please, why can she say something interesting?  Just one thing!

She could me the flower is ugly.  What???  Or, it’s poisonous.  Ooooh!  

Or, she might tattoo it on her neck.  Heck, yes!)  

The weather?  It’s been hot and sticky as fuck.

My boobs are adhered to my ribs right now, in fact.

Yeah, it’s a nice picture, but I can most certainly still breath.

Still breathing… Breathing and breathing….

Our vacation will be:  Relaxing, provocative, frustrating, conflicted,

wonderous, rejuvenating, tiring, troublesome,

awakening, surprising, diarrhea-producing, memorable.

Not, at all, indescribable.

(Please, please, stop her.

Please, please, stop her hyperbolic words-noise.

I’m begging.  Desperation.  Near panic.

I don’t know… if I can smile in agreement… much longer.)

Her voice is a mosquito flying by my ear…  and again… and again,

it rings with threat and need, her incessant and empty talk.

I wish to run away, through the woods, just me and the trees, some salamanders.

Maybe the sun filters through the leaves, dappling quiet, green ferns.

God, maybe I could trip on a rock and need rescue.  That could be sort of fun.

I wish a chore needed urgent doing.

Maybe someone will drop a jug of lemonade on the floor,

carelessly, clumsily, generously.

I find her and offer to make her pancakes.




Punish.  Punitively treat.  Punishment.

The idea behind punishment is to negatively reinforce a behavior.  This suggests, that if you can train a dog, you can train a human.  It doesn’t seem this hypothesis holds, though, does it?

I have been punished.  As an adolescent, I would be grounded to negatively reinforce a decision my parents perceived as being poor.  Usually, a grounding would entail a sentence of about one month, of which I would actually serve about three days.  My parents would tire of me driving them crazy around the house.  Meanwhile, I learned where I’d gone wrong so the next time I would remember to cover that base better in my scheming.

It would bother me, a lot, to be seen as a bad kid though, especially by my parents (but also by my teachers, or even friends’ parents).  The reason I would get in trouble wasn’t because I didn’t know right from wrong, it was because I didn’t want to disappoint.  There was a constant intrinsic pressure not to disappoint my family, but nor did I want to disappoint my friends, and therein lied my quandary.

As a result, I would sneak around a lot.  I wanted boys to like me.  I wore mini-skirts and went out “cruisin'” with my too-old boyfriend in his Chevy truck.  We’d meet friends in a cornfield and drink wine coolers and peppermint schnapps in the bed.  I would make excuses to be one place, but go to another.  There were elaborate schemes with alibis, and well-researched reports on movies never attended.  Once there was even a secret post office box where I could receive private mail.  These were things other kids didn’t do, certainly not the good kids.  I did so much want to be one of the good kids, though.  It just seemed my lot not to be.  I was envious of them.

I remember one time my parents came home and reported to me that Amanda’s parents didn’t want her to hang around with me.  They knew I’d drunk alcohol at some point and they didn’t want me to influence my badness on their child’s goodness.  That stung.  And I remember that there was no more discussion around that.  Perhaps my parents thought that if I ruminated on it enough, I would come to my own realization– that the track I was on was leading to lonely places.  Perhaps that time my punishment was to be left alone with my rejection.

The irony was that being the person I wanted to be, was being the same person my parents wanted for me to be.  I just didn’t have the strength to maintain course.  When I was with the right friends, who influenced their goodness on my badness, I felt like I was on vacation from the quandary of disappointment because there was no conflict.  If only I were able to articulate that to myself then, and adjust to the more positive possibility.  It seemed impossible at the time, but when I think about all the changes that could have been made if I had the pride and self-worth to be selective in that way, I would have saved myself a lot of very dark moments.

For me, I guess punishment was a more internal process of reinforced lacking in self-worth than it was my parents’ attempt at reinforcement– the making of an obvious negative spiral in hindsight.  For them, discipline was motivated more by a need to  avenge their embarrassment than it was a coaxing or coaching to the light.  In the end, I see these things and yes, I do wish they’d been different, but they weren’t.  I work to understand them now and thus myself better, and I can take over from here– to right the ship and stay on course.  Adults are their own parents.





What’s that?!

Ew… eh…


I think a bee is on my back.


Get up.

I can’t see it to kill it.


If I miss, it’ll get mad.

It’ll sting.

Slowly, get up.

Get help.


Feel the wall-to-wall carpet.

Hear the floor creak beneath it.





To the den,

Where it’s warm,

the TV plays Cheers,

and the dog sleeps.


“Mom, I think I have a bee on my back.”

“Let me see….  Oh my God, you do!”

“Can you get it off?”

She does.




An only child lived in a house in the woods.  Her parents were young–  the youngest of their friends to be a mommy and a dad.  They weren’t cut out for parenting.  They knew that, but not until after they had her.  That’s why she was an only.

They were cut out for routine.  They were cut out for parties and a local bar called Casper’s.  They were cut out for laughing with their friends, sometimes at her expense.  They were cut out for hard work.  They were cut out for relaxing, reading, gardening, fishing, cooking, house projects, and taking care of the elderly aunt and uncle down the road when they called either because auntie had taken the car out again and uncle didn’t know where she was, or because they had run out of gin, or because one or the other had fallen down the stairs, however begrudgingly.

They wanted to be wonderful parents.  They wanted to ski and ride horses, so, so did she. They told her that she could tell them anything as long as she always told the truth.  They wanted to be hippies for a while, so she was naked around their house in the woods a lot.  They went to buy milk from the dairy farm up the road.  Then they baked their own bread.  There were curtains where most houses had cabinet doors.  The curtains were blue, a meadow scene, lots of daisies.

After they were hippies they were yuppies.  She wore suits to work.  He complained about his staff.  They made money.  There were cabinets with doors and family portraits with delicately placed gold chains with sweet pendants and a lot of consideration of hand placement.  There was Nivea lotion to chase away signs of aging.  There was Jim Beam and there were visits from family on Christmas or Easter or her birthday sometimes.

She grew.  She had more freedom.  They were well cut out for allowing her more freedom. She wasn’t lonely when she was with boys.  It would turn out that always telling the truth wasn’t a sure thing.  She stopped telling the truth.  She got her own birth control.  They didn’t like her boyfriend who was twenty-six.  She did.  He raped her and she decided to like him even more because if she loved him then what he did wouldn’t be rape and her parents would still be wrong.

She got on a Peter Pan bus.  She put a box of pots and pans in the cargo hold below the seats.  Her dad dropped her off and she left to live with her rapist.  It wasn’t lonely living with him in the same way as lonely had been before.  It was carefree.





On a day of heartbreak, my cousin Christina drove.  She was in college at the time, another upper-middle class white girl from the suburbs of Boston.  Nobody special. Especially not to him, she thought.

He had red hair and a name, and promise.  He would have been her husband, and they would have met in college, and was the right story to have.  Just as her car was the right car for college, her ambition just enough, her wardrobe polished, but casual, he was just right. She was Goldilocks and he was her chosen porridge.

He left.  Of course, his break-up was perfect.  He was open, honest, resolved.  He didn’t sever her contact entirely, nor did he coddle too much.  He was perfect at breaking up because he was perfect, just like his red hair and his name.

The chosen boy took her choice away.  This was Christina’s first experience with another person’s decision impacting her so deeply.  Until this moment, she was the chooser.  Life was a catalogue and she was the shopper and she chose.

At first, the choices were simple– her favorite color, which piece of candy, the bunny sweater or the star one?  She was good at those choices so she chose more:  reading or drawing, piano or violin, field hockey or soccer.  Again, she was good, so there came more:  Latin or French, chem or bio, band or chorus, drugs or booze, or not at all, public or private, near or far, and she choose and choose and choose some more!  She was the best chooser!

She choose him.  Her porridge left.  Unlike green, the sour one, bunny, drawing, piano, field hockey, French, bio, band, a little booze, public, and far(ish), he left her.

Christina drove.  She drove down Route 2 and back again, down and back, down and back.  There were trucks and tailgaters.  There were fast, open stretches, and winding ones through fallen mill towns.  She just drove.   Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.17.11 AMDrive