Buck Rich had sought his fortune
with 2-dimensional kings & queens,
rich & desperate old dowagers,
drunken bar bets,
the dogs & the ponies,
& numbered balls that went pong-ping.
But it wasn’t till he started his YouTube channel—
“Buck Naked Rich,”
based on the Prosperity Gospel—
that he became the morning & the evening star,
for there was no surer bet than those who sought
to buy their way to heaven
while being entertained about it.
She had learned that the key to a happy life
was to take your work seriously
not so much,
& that to have a sixth sense—
that sense called humor—
was a gift not just for the receiver
but also the giver,
for if laughter was the best medicine,
then humor was the best prevention.
She sucked at numbers
but not doing a number on people.
She sucked at formulas—
unless it was using one to write a book.
She sucked at statistics—
unless it was calculating what percentage of time
her husband effed up,
so rather than be a good little mathematician,
she just painted by the numbers
& did a number on anyone . . .
until her number was up.
At the age of 5 & 30,
she married the 1 who didn’t make her life easier
but made her better—
a man who called himself not the black sheep
but the stray sheep—
a man who had a place at every card table
because he believed that was the only way
he could ever surpass their circumstances.
He lost as much money as he had jobs,
but when he met her,
he felt he’d won the lottery—
only to continuously pay taxes on her by
doing everything in his power to keep her.
And she saw beyond their limitations
to their possibilities—
with him giving things up
taking things on.
She thought she’d found that in STEM,
but it turned to be the A in STEAM.
Every John who came through
“Lorelei’s Happily Ever After, Inc.”
would learn that their slogan—
“If you’re not happy,
it’s not the end”—
was all too true,
for they went in as John Smith,
only to leave as John Doe.
He walked the line,
she crossed the line.
He was the goody-2-loafers
(sans the penny),
she, the rebel in hot pink espadrilles.
She smoked (chicken & every other kind of flesh)
& drank (root beer & ginger ale)
& stayed out late at the Internet cafe,
writing the stories that got her into trouble
but only because they got others into trouble.
She was a reporter first,
a writer second,
so that when they met at a poetry reading
at The End of the Line cafe,
she taught him to tell his truth
through the style he preferred—
a truth he first had to live.
She was a “Dancing Queen,”
he, a “Rhinestone Cowboy”;
she was as urban as he was rural,
but they shone
for the rising stars they were—
she with her cubic zirconia tiara,
with his holographic buttons.
When they hooked up,
it was a stellar collision,
& they birthed a bigger star
than they ever were—
the androgynous Rhinestone Queen.
Elizabeth, Libby, Betsy, and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird’s nest.
They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in,
They all took one and left four in.
—Mother Goose nursery rhyme
Elizabeth possessed 7 different personalities—
Libby, Zibby, Beth, & Liz,
Liddy, Betty, & Bess—
1 for every color of the rainbow.
He was the 7th son of a 7th son
& perfect for her,
even as she was perfect for him,
for he had a new woman
every day of week,
just as she had a man
who loved her for better,
& for downright bat-poo crazy.
Her life began as a brief birth announcement,
followed by a series of Owen Mills poses,
& unfocused, jittery videos.
Then there was the grainy color newsprint photo in The Patriot Press
of her holding up a certificate
& wearing a medallion
for placing first
in a Constitution calligraphy contest.
For many years,
that was akin to her 4 touchdowns in 1 game.
She never got a write-up in the arrest records,
for that was a legacy she didn’t want to leave;
rather, she lived up as a subject
for several human-interest stories—
as the girl who sold 6701 Girl Scout cookies
because of a YouTube video
that turned those processed disks
into decadent desserts;
as a college graduate who crowdfunded her way
into creating an endowed scholarship
for creative writers in memory of her sister,
whose memoir, Lessons from Mother Goose,
gained notoriety posthumously;
in her silver-haired, golden years,
as a woman who made old tee shirts
into rag rugs for the homeless,
in memory of the brother she’d lost to addiction,
whose inward riches had turned to outward rags.
And then she finally told her own story
by writing her obituary,
for she always had to have
the last word.
Smiles were free,
but frowns cost double
(meaning they were still free
but not worth the trouble).