Category Archives: performance poetry

Free Dumb Reigns

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I have never been afraid to fly

At nine, I flew in a

150 year-old stunt biplane

Open cockpit,

Leather helmet

Flowing white silk scarf

 

My second flight ever

Was at age 17

In the pilot seat

Of a Cessna 172

My dad was the co-pilot.

I flew …

before I could drive.

 

As I got older

I started collecting stamps

On my passports,

And riding elephants

Through ancient cities

and up Asian mountains

People share pictures of their

Grandchildren at birthday parties

And their pets sleeping

I have pictures of my preschoolers

Eating meat on a stick

And giving Santa directions

To our new flat in Shanghai.

 

So when you tell me

I don’t fit your definition of what

a divorced, middle-aged, American,

cancer survivor, teacher,

single mother of two

(Insert label here)

You are right.

And I’m ok with that.

PTSD

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When a soldier comes back from battle

With no legs

His friends don’t say, “Oh man!

How do you do it?

Go everyday without walking.

I could NEVER do that!”

 

I can’t eat chocolate.

“OH MY GOD!”  I hear.

“I would DIIIIEEE!

I need my daily blah, blah blah…”

As if the word “can’t” didn’t register.

“Can’t” is not a choice.

If it makes you sick,

If it feels like poison,

You don’t miss it.

 

Then there’s,

“Why did you wait so long to have children?”

“It’s so selfish.”

–Yeah, I’ve actually heard that.

Well you see…

Truth is

I had sex everyday

Sometimes more than once

for twenty years

then BOOM!

Jackpot!

That’s the truth,

–but it’s not what people think.

They think I chose

To have my first child at 38.

Because our life is our free will, right?

Our choice.

I love being a mother at my age.

I’m so happy it happened that way,

But I didn’t plan it.

 

TMI: I haven’t had sex

since the first bomb hit.

I was hit with 3.

That will probably keep me out of the game.

No one asks the soldier about sex.

It’s understood.

No one even mentions it to him.

This seems to be a problem and issue for others.

I’m told, “Can’t you find someone?”

I suppose I could…

If I wanted to…

But why?

It’s so trivial

When you don’t have legs,

You figure things out

And move on.

 

How does pretending to do something

Or need something

Or want something

Make me feel better?

I’m not the one in denial.

 

I live without a car.

No one questions it.

I can’t eat turkey.

No one mentions it.

I can’t drink alcohol.

No big change.

 

Why would I mourn

some little piece of chocolate

Or random night?

 

Dead Beat

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You should have been born a man

–No disrespect to men, or anything

–But one of those stereo-typical,

Narcissistic, paranoid, irresponsible,

Statistic, inconsiderate,

Lacking of commitment or

Understanding of anything outside yourself

Prepubescent with no aspirations

To do anything

Other than say…

lay around

Until years pass

Over-night

And you’re almost 50

Out of shape

Constantly complaining about some ache or pain

Or crazy neighbor

Like a crotchety old man

30 years past his prime

“Those kids were talking behind my back.”

You grouse.

Because, you know,

That’s what preschoolers do.

But here you are

In the middle of life

With an expensive education and no experience

Or common sense to back up

Any flippant remark like

“The dinner your nanny made was so good,

I didn’t save you any.”

“It’s not about you,”  and

“You know, you should get more “me” time.”

These things spout from your mouth

With no reference to open eyes,

Useful hands or a brain that processes

Outside information in any more

Complex way then a two-step process

That can’t possibly result in a conclusion other than,

“What about me?” in a whiny voice.

And the no-guilt sense of entitlement,

As if all the water you drink,

The food you eat,

the A/C you keep on 24/7

Should be a right and free

So you can spend 3 times more for a gourmet meal

To be delivered

than a family spends cooking fresh from the market.

Every lunch bought,

Every Starbucks coffee,

Every taxi ride to work

Was taken out of the pocket of

the single mother

you stole thousands from

Who walks to work with a thermos of coffee

and left-overs in her backpack.

And you and I know

deep down,

that missed opportunities and advantages

have nothing to do with

skin color, gender, or age,

Some people are well-trained

to catch the red flags I missed.

Because once the money ran out,

So did you.

Poor little victim of circumstances

Your karma created.

Misery repels company.

 

 

 

Walk a mile…

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She said, “Girl,

you need to break out of your comfort zone.”

I was confused.

Comfort zone?
I have NO comfort zone.

She was saying this
in response to my

previous confused look
as she rattled off directions,

in Chinese, of the good store
to buy clothes for my daughter

who is suddenly growing like a weed.

I had only been living in Shanghai a couple of months.

And then I started thinking…

About the first time I went camping around

the state of Arizona,

and then backpacking alone
in Alaska
without a plan,

going to an ashram in the Adirondack Mountains

without a penny in my pocket,

my two years in Peace Corps

sleeping on the floor
in a house I shared

with a 7-foot snake and 2 tarantulas

that didn’t pay rent.

Living with an abusive husband,
and going through chemo, radiation,

no voice, feeding tube,
and not even able to drink a drop of water;

I am a single mother, living in Shanghai

with my two preschool daughters

and this might be the most comfortable time of our lives,

But I wondered how a person’s perception could be so skewed.

And then I thought about Charlie

this guy I met in the ice cream aisle of the store.

We were both buying vanilla ice cream

because we both were recovering from throat cancer

and that was exactly ALL that we had in common.

He said, “I am really good judge of character,”

and then proceeded to tell me how he completely understood

“how I am building walls,”

“How I am cutting myself off from people.”
and “How I am turning away my friends.”

He got the same confused look.

–from me.

I had never been so surrounded by friends.

I had friends paying my insurance bills,

paying my rent,

taking care of my girls,

bringing food and money,

cleaning my house,

and checking up on me

all day, everyday.

George Bailey had nothing on me.

But this man Charlie,
had told the same bad joke 3 times
to 3 different people

and was so negative and off-putting

that I just didn’t want to talk to HIM.

I understand projection.

I understand perspective.

My Mohican friend, Mike, gave me

my third-stage Native name

of “Standing Wave.”

He said it’s that place in the river

where it looks calm as glass on the surface

but below there’s a rapid undertow.  

He always saw me so clearly.

Adding Insult to Injury

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Adding Insult to Injury

He waited there

in all black

With a copy of Burrough’s Naked Lunch.

He didn’t read it.

It was a prop.

I, in my best work dress, came in

With every pay stub for the past six months

In chronological order,

Proof of insurance, day care bills,

Government assistance,

My lease, birth certificates, social security cards,

And a host of other documents

That I was threatened to have.

When we were brought in

to see the magistrate

She complimented him

For showing up.

She asked him about his unemployment issues

Then likened him to her own son

Who had to move back home with her.

She opened our case folder

With the big red “Domestic Violence”

Stamp across it.

“I really sympathize with your situation.”

She said to him.

“I hope it gets better for you soon.”

She didn’t look at my folders

Painstakingly gathered and formed

By my O/CD and fear

That I didn’t have every required document.

Finally she looked at me.

And awarded me

$50 a month for our two baby girls.

.

In God We Trust

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And you have decided that you are some

conservative, NRA card-holding,

xenophobic, homophobic,

misogynistic, chauvinistic,

fearful bully.

You pull out bumper-sticker quotes of

Jefferson, Madison, and Paine,

And you don’t even realize that they were

a)    Not Christian

b)    Out of context

c)    Not even their quotes

Read a history book.

ANY history book!

You argue that the government will take away

your Bible, your rifle, your freedom

–whatever that means to you

but you don’t mind if it takes away

the rights and freedoms of my friends.

You say, “Speak English!”

Did your great grandfather speak English when he got here?

You say, “Close the doors!”

As if the Statue of Liberty means NOTHING?

You say, “take off that scarf,

they all look like terrorists,

You can’t build here,

you can’t live here…”

“But don’t you dare touch my Bible –I have rights!”

And you know “those guys?”

Well, they’re just unnatural.

That’s just not right.

Because our God,

The one who hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers

And other “undesirables”

–Did you read that book?

Yeah, OUR God, says it’s wrong.

I know back then

it was all about polygamy, slavery, rape and pillaging

–but that so doesn’t count anymore.

And OUR God was ok with that.

–But two men –well that’s just wrong.

So we need to pass laws to save you

From going to our hell.

And so he would preach Christian family values

The way it used to be (segregated and suppressed)

To ANYONE who would listen –and agree…

But when his little girl wanted to say grace in the restaurant,

“Thank you God…for the grasshopper I saw today…

Thank you God…for healing my boo-boo last week…”

He finally interrupted.

“Can you do that later?  I’m hungry.”

Fortune Telling

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Each card was slowly turned over.

The first revealed change.

the second was fortune,

and the third showed reward.

So I said to him that there was

This great opportunity in China…

“It’s dangerous.”

The money is four  times what I’m making now…

“People disappear.”

I’m being actively recruited…

“The state department has travel warnings.”

I will have a prestigious position in a huge company

With amazing benefits…

“You’re not thinking about your daughters.”

OK.  GLOVES OFF.

What?

Explain anything you just said

That doesn’t apply to America

–or anywhere.

I have been sexually assaulted –twice,

Robbed in my sleep,

And beaten right in my hometown.

I have had my wallet, 2 bikes, a TV, camera, 2 phones, and lots of money stolen.

I know 2 college boys who have mysteriously disappeared,

Different years, different states, different circumstances.

There have been three mass school shootings in the metro area.

Hell!  Ariel Castro lived just blocks away!

And it’s the state department’s job to issue warnings

For EVERY country:

Pick-pockets, internet scams, faulty contracts…Cookie cutter

Every country says the same

Except the UK

–check that one out.

Three times the warnings…

(Note to self

–don’t go to the UK

—oops, too late!)

“I thought you said Thailand was going to be

all ‘wine and roses.’” He said.

This position, this possibility, this opportunity wasn’t even

In my realm of understanding.

And it’s being handed to me.

And then, my closest,

oldest friend of about 35 years

unfriended me.

What I really wanted to say was “take the plank out of your own eye

Before you try to fix the speck in mine.”

But instead, I say this:

“Hold out your hand.

One day, you will be given a gift,

A complete surprise, that will bring you joy.

Be prepared to accept it.”