When her son was a baby,
she took time off to be with him,
missing the promotion.
When her son was 5
& going into kindergarten,
she went back to work
at a reduced rate,
for it was important
that she was there
to read him a bedtime story.
When he was 12,
she won a 6-month writer’s residency
in New England,
but she couldn’t afford to bring him with her,
& she told herself that it was enough to know
that she had won,
for she could write anywhere with him
in the next room
or playing at her feet.
When he was 16,
she’d looked straight at him
& gave him the car keys—
not giving him to God as a priest
but to the world as a man.
When he was 18,
she looked up into those eyes
that were no longer questioning
& she saw herself reflected back in them.
And it was then that she saw herself
in him for the first time,
rather than the father who had gone before his;
she saw that she’d made something of the world
by making something of him.
She had grown up with Pat & Vanna—
witnessing the progression
of the turning of the letters
to the touching of the letters,
of Pat’s lousy jokes & receding hairline,
& the ushering in of the
lame-ass “crossword” category.
Through “The Wheel,”
she’d learned her alphabet,
then her spelling,
then the combinations of words
& the categorization of those combinations.
She’d learned to count in fifties & hundreds
before twos & fives
& that mispronouncing a word
could cost you dearly.
She’d seen snippets of every part of the world
& where they were located on the map,
so that she was curious enough to look them up
in Encyclopedia Brittanica.
She’d learned when to take chances
& when to play it safe.
When she became a contestant—
meeting these personalities
who’d lit up her living room
with their Fifties blandness—
it was like living her childhood dream
& connecting with a friend
that had grown up with her
without them even knowing it.
The money she won changed her life
but only because she used it
to change someone else’s.
When Kitty Carlisle joined Toastmasters—
she, who’d always considered herself
the Toast of Town & Country—
fell in lust with Mr. Milquetoast,
who buttered her up
with a little brandied mincemeat jam,
so that she was drunk when she said,
When she became Toastmaster General,
he was known as Mr. Kitty Carlisle,
the cool cat who’d settled for
toaster leavins’ & spoilt milk.
To save their rubber chicken wedding,
Mrs. Kentucky Fried—
also known as an angel with wings
with the breasts & thighs to match—
showed a little leg
as she danced back & forth
across the yellowing, crumbling brick road,
having the guests try to figure out why
she was up to such chicken shit.
But the bride found herself in a real sour pickle
when the egg came
before her groom did.
Lady Godiva always dreamt in chocolate
when she was feeling blue,
which tickled her pink fancy–
so much so,
that she became a becoming shade of lavender,
diminishing her nakedness.
When she tried to be Mom & Dad to her children,
she diminished the uniqueness of each role.
When she realized that trying to be both
was as crazy as trying to treat a boy like a girl,
she tried to be twice the mom
she had been in half the time.
When help came in the form of a man
who loved the 3 of them,
her heart was soft enough to let his head
make an imprint there
& fill it with his love.
The English & Communications Department
at Pence State College was a bit macabre,
being fans of colons & periods
& Naked Shakespeare on Ice:
the Department Head,
was as sharp as her attention to detail;
the Assistant Department Head,
was as crisp as thinly-sliced English cucumbers
in crustless tea party sandwiches;
Marion, the Administrative Assistant,
was as mathy as she was not writerly.
Then there was Luci, the Senior Admin,
also known as O.C. Dizzy,
who broke 1 foot,
then broke the other to match.
the Poetry Prof in a tweed blazer
that smelled like academia & dead
(but not decomposed) poets,
walked around with a flowered tote
because he was “comfortable in his sexuality”
while Miguel Willis,
the Creative Writing Prof,
with his 100-watt smile,
made off-color brunette jokes;
the Instructor of All Things Awesome,
whose syllabus was a thing of beauty,
kept them all guessing.
But the plethora of Sara(h)s
(Smith, Jones, & Davis)—
a blonde, a brunette, & a redhead—
happened to walk into a bar one night
& became a punchline
rather than a storyline.