“…work is it’s own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.”
-Marge Piercy, from for the young who want to
it used to be that stories of great women inspired me:
reading about Dorothy Parker was a stiff whiskey sour,
watching Rosalind Russell strut about as Auntie Mame
was a full bottle of cheap champagne
i got drunk on fabulous amazons
until i swaggered about like i was one.
i filled my head with the poetry of gods,
Emily, Billy, Lucille, Marge, Maya,
dosing me with their heavy songs of truth.
i read my life into their heartbreak.
i copied their smart mouths
i wrapped myself in their cynicism and barbed-wire wisdom
and willed myself to be strong.
in my favorite photograph of my mother,
she is standing on a beach in Malibu in the May sunshine
surrounded by the seagulls it was her idea to feed.
her blue one-piece is stretched across her stomach.
the birds are aggressively closing in, her smile belies
some hidden panic i imagine only i can see.
it’s not fair, but life happens just the same.
if you’d asked my mother in 1971
she would have born witness to the timelessness of paisley,
told you rock-and-roll was just a passing fad,
sworn loyalty to a life of chocolate chip cookies and PTA meetings.
she was a believer all the way to the welfare line,
tried to look graceful dragging three daughters and a station wagon behind her.
20 years of broken air conditioning and hot laundry
and bad dates and she still remembers not to swear.
so for her,
i hide how unprepared i am for all of this.
i smile, and i breathe
when the children with their grass-stains
and pencil shavings and fistfuls of questions
surround me on all sides.
i want to believe
i can look my enemy
in his good blue eye
and hold my stomach,
that power can be traded into nothing.
your stories read like warnings now.
be careful what you traffic in—change is work.
love may break you.
i hear a woman wins the election and i take my vitamins.
i hear Aretha on the radio and i stretch my aching legs.