Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Je ne sais claus

I grew up in a narrow hallway of alcoholics
a family so dispirited that they mostly either died
or fell asleep early, watching tv.

There wasn’t a lot of esprit de corps around,
not to mention je ne sais quoi.

Because of all that I began to drink
and because of all that
I wound up in one of those meetings
years later
where a guy told a new kind of inspiring Christmas story.

He was driving drunk (naturally) on a snowy, frosty night,
it was Christmas Eve, the car windows all fogged up
the speedometer gauge fogged up too, he knew he was going too fast
and that he needed to make a right turn off the parkway
to get home to the prairie village where his family waited for him,
candles in the windows,
and since he didn’t want a speeding ticket
he reached through the steering wheel to wipe the speedometer clear
to see how fast he was going, and as he was wiping, drinking
from a vodka bottle with his other hand, watching for cops
hiding on side streets and behind snowmen, he came to his street
too fast
missed it
hit the brakes
went into a skid
hit a snowdrift and a curb with the front tires
which yanked the steering wheel spinning.

This broke his forearm, which hurt, of course
(made all of us in the meeting simultaneously flinch and spill coffee),
but he had toys to wrap for his daughter; he had milk, cookies
and notebook paper for her to write a note to Santa;
he knew his little girl and wife were waiting, probably by the fireplace.

So, with his other hand, he straightened the wheel
backed the car up out of the snow drift
took one more drink out of the vodka bottle
tuned in Christmas music on the radio
and carefully rolled home toward the candlelight,
through all the late-night blue and red twinkling, snowflakes flying,
broken arm dangling (he said) like droopy, after-Christmas tinsel.

That was some Christmas spirit!
In a whole childhood of Christmases
I’d never known anyone like this guy.

He said his daughter wrote the note to Santa later that night,
after they all got back from the Emergency Room.
She also gave Dad a bottle of Perrier in his stocking. 
“From Santa,” an attached note assured him next morning,
in her handwriting.


After the meeting I went to shake his hand
but got mixed up about which hand got twisted
in the spinning steering wheel, so I froze.
He noticed that and said, go on, put her there, that was years ago,”
but we hugged each other instead and promised never
to go through any of that again.

Coda 2

Then we both spilled our coffee, laughing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Suicide packed

When I was ten, even younger
I was surrounded by all these old people
hanging around, nowhere to go, open mouth
yearning in their urine-colored clothes.

They were more drains than faucets.

I made a pact with myself right then
that if I got old like that, I’d get a special suitcase
take a little trip; I'd have way better clothes
and when the time came, I’d get all dressed up
and know exactly where to go.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Cub Scouts

I keep wondering why these old men
don’t scare me anymore.

It must have begun with my first and one and only
cub scout meeting, over before it began
because all us boys were left alone in the basement
a rumble broke out, biggest boys beating on the smallest,
as usual
until we heard the sound of sex upstairs
our Den Mother being raped.

I found that out later. Much later. She was raped.
Because of this, the Den Mother
went into her own den for years.

That day, though, I heard her, her voice upstairs
something maybe her bones bouncing on the floor,
elbows, knees, sound of a man, like a four-legged animal
growling, shhh-ing her, and her saying NO. NO. NO.

Underneath the rumble sounds downstairs
I said we better do something,
something bad is happening up there.
I got hit for that, red blood on the blue cub scout uniform.

Later, after it got quiet upstairs and down
and we all just sat around for awhile
me still bleeding where my Webelos badge
(or whatever it is) should be,
the Den Mother’s husband came down,
he was some sort of a scout leader, he saw me bleeding,
blamed me right off for all the broken furniture in his rec room,
and threw me out, told me to go home
go get some character somewhere.

Nobody ever asked who raped the Den Mother.
I thought it was the scout leader himself.
The Den Mother said so, later.
The cub scouts didn’t care.

So now, centuries of my life later
and the centuries still rolling along
men still mostly running the world,
why don’t they scare me anymore?

Because I know them.
That's why.
I’ve seen them.

I’ve seen them when they weren’t going off to church
and doing good for the community
coaching little league
leading scouts.

Supremely dependable, despicable
tediously predictable.
But better be fair (maybe), that’s just some of them,
like the ones in charge.

They may be in charge,
but take a look at them.
Nothing, nobody there.

I grew up in a thicket of widows
a close and sticky
lonely, prickly childhood,
for sure.

Sometimes someone would come along
and say, hey, don’t you need
an older man to look up to?

I’d look up and see the sun
later that night, the moon.
And always somewhere else
a lot farther away.

The Kids Table

I’m watching women this week, taking cues from them
about how to deal with all this pain I’m feeling.
I see them being wise, funny, sad, sharp, smart, alert, aware,
compassionate, furious, strong, irreverent, wounded, bold,
undiminished, and way alive! Their pilot light is BRIGHT BLUE!

They must feel this time worse than me, but something's been coming up in me, too.

I haven’t been raped (nearly every woman I know has been raped
or abused), but I feel sad, scared, alone, vulnerable to attack, insulted, hurt,
and really fucking mad.

I look and listen to the sexist men up there at the top and feel
my own childhood rising again; bullied, belittled, physically threatened,
patronized, verbally cut up and reduced, punished, ignored and isolated.

The men told me to be physically brutal, but later they said
(gym class over, the football game over): now it’s time to grow up, Man Up, 
be reasonable, be rational, be like us, calm down, grow up (again),
take a breath, be realistic, all of it meaning: DON’T get emotional.

Which made me even more emotional, feeling scared and crazy,
which, in their bloodshot eyes, put me out at the Kids Table.

“Grow up, what you feel is not feasible, you’re not a serious person.”
Said and say the old men. Sit at the Kids Table, let the Adults (men) talk.

I’m full of PTSD from all my own childhood abuse, a recovered
(even reupholstered) alcoholic, and I’m allergic to peanut butter,
though that last one probably isn’t relevant here.

Well, go to hell you sexist old men. I’ve seen you before,
I know what you do. If you ever die and maybe you have it in your mind
you wanna go to heaven, I hope when you get there
it’s forever fucking closed to you.
No heaven, no hell, nowhere to go. See how you like it.

Speaking of nowhere to go: we're out here, the women and men like me,
we aren’t going anywhere. And there’s a lot of us.

Bless your hard sexist hearts, you old men. But namaste the fuck away from me.

(Written during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings)