Once upon a long time ago,
it was understood that the men
went to the College of Liberal Arts,
run by men
& the women,
the School of Domestic Arts,
run by women.
But then a Mr. & Mrs.,
well-versed & quite dexterous in both arts,
showed the world that it was better off
when men & women
not only learned from one another
but when everyone was educated
& knew how to do things for themselves.
She was a kindergarten teacher,
he, a college professor.
She taught the phonemes,
he, the 100-dollar words.
They both saw the value
they gave to their students—
she, in their beginnings,
in their ends.
She took numerous DNA tests,
only to fail them,
her cat was always upchucking
all over her homework,
& she was often accused of plagiarism
by a TurnItIn bot
who had twice the intelligence
but not half the talent.
When she sneaked into the Student Lab
for a prescription to unknot the stress ball
that was her life,
she realized that she knew who she was,
even if she didn’t know what she was,
that maybe online classes were for her,
& that in-text citations were a student’s best friend.
When Lefty Lucy conspired with Tidy Whitey
to sneak into Diamond Jem’s
to steal the family jewels,
rather than lay in wait in nooks & crannies,
they were burgled & busted
by crooks & nannies.
She was a comedienne—
the queen of comic relief—
with a crown of tangled hair
that never looked so great.
He was a tragedian—
a king of tragic grief—
whose crown tended to slip
from his bald pate.
When this Life of the Party
& this Death of any Party
decided to crash the
Prosperity Gospel sheep
& the Dale Carnegie peeps
in an old jalopy
at 90 miles an hour,
they scattered wool & feathers
all over the Take-a-Wish Foundation hall—
the taste of charred chicken
& the smell of singed mutton
lingering in their wake.
Lucinda was a witch
who was always casting
a hot spell;
Lucien was an irksome fellow
often resulted in a cold snap.
When they crossed paths
(& one another)
at a climate change
(no breeding allowed),
they saw each other’s grass
& decided to make it work:
“in rain or shine,
in hurricane or blizzard,
for as long as their planet
Sunnie Mooney had always said
that she’d never retire
till she became a millionaire,
but then she got starstruck in the kisser
by a meteor in the shape of Alec Baldwin,
knocking the day & night lights
out of her.
what his mother had self-deprecatingly
referred to as Ivory Rubbish,
her son, Moon Pi,
donated her body to science fiction,
& she made more money as a sideshow prop
than she ever had as a freakshow character—
finally reaching that million-dollar milestone
after she’d reached for the stars.
Dangerous Curves Ahead
Judy was hauled off to the fat farm
while Janey was rolled away to the funny farm.
When they connected through group therapy,
they realized that one man
(ex-husband to one, ex-lover to the other)
had driven Judy to try to eat her way to oblivion,
the other, to check into it.
And so, these 2 women done wrong
decided that the only cure to their troubles was Joanie—
a leggy, blond nymph who would turn their ex’s eye
& empty his head—
for Joanie had driven all her husbands
to buy the farm.
When Fanny Took a Load Off
Fanny Bottoms (nee Derriere)
was the butt of many jokes
because of her Spoonerisms,
but she got the last guffaw
when she turned the other cheek
on those anal asses
by showing them the
dark, unwaxed side of the moon.
Em Dash was as innumerate
as En Dash was illiterate,
but when they did a DNA test,
they realized they were descended from the Hyphen,
who separated words & numbers
& helped women keep their maiden name
while taking their married name, too.
When Lady Apostrophe
went to her daily therapy sessions,
she became increasingly indignant
over Dr. Dew Nothing’s diagnoses:
delusions of grandeur—
as Lady felt like she was the only thing
that held two words together—
& a slew of imaginary frenemies
whom she addressed (rather poetically).
having sent Lady Apostrophe on her way
with a 90-day supply of chill pills—
preferred Miss Period,
who only bothered her once a month
& would be gone
long before she retired.
When Readerly, Writerly, & Grammarly
wandered into a minibar.
Readerly entertained herself with reading the menu
& Writerly, with making it more interesting,
while Grammarly punctuated the pauses in Readerly’s speaking
& proofed the edits that Writerly had lovingly made.
Different facets of the same person,
they made a great team,
for were smart enough not to consume anything
from the minibar,
with its absentee mixologist,
& chilly atmosphere.
She lived a life of handwritten thank you notes
in her signature cursive,
of love letters on floral stationery,
scented with White Shoulders,
& glossy postcards in paper rather than pixels,
stamped with the country
from whence they came.
The tactile experience of opening an envelope
from the aluminum mailbox
at the end of her driveway
became something quaint,
for such occurrences were seldom.
Rather than travel through cyberspace,
her words traveled through real space
with last night’s coffee stain on a story
she’d bled all over with a red pen.
she held on to her grandmother’s record collection,
her grandfather’s stamp collection,
& her collection of old photos that had no digital form.
Such items were precious to her,
for they were remnants of a time
that was now fading into black.
She was a tattoo artist,
he, a sandwich artist.
They loved to argue over whose art
she believed his lasted for a meal,
hers, for a lifetime,
& the graffiti artist,
sick of their public screeds
at the comic book shop,
Instagrammed their creations,
so that the creations of
Mr. Sammich & Tit-4-Tatted
would endure forever.
When J.C. Drew,
the “New You” self-help guru,
whose tagline was
“Be an activist for you!”
preyed on the people of Seneca Falls
by convincing them that their current selves
weren’t good enough
so that they became dissatisfied
with their wonderful lives,
Moxie Carmichael gave him a piece of her mind,
which was the one piece nobody could change.
Liza Beth Higginbotham
traded in her name badge
for a nameplate,
her apron for a tweed suit.
She chose to be called Elizabeth.
It was in this way that she made
a name for herself,
only to marry an even bigger name.
It was then,
& only then,
that who she was once only mattered
because of who she now mattered to.
She spent the days
with her hands in flour,
her nights with her head in words
so that her cookies tasted like paper,
& her books tasted like cookies;
she found that lunchtime afternoons
were her sweet spot,
for she could eat her words.
to look at the past,
& gazed at her child
to look at the future.
They were glorious,
for they were made
of the same stuff—
the dust of the heavens,
with the breath of life into
sculptures more resilient
Mr. Zee divided his class into X’s & Y’s,
for budding dolls & guys.
But so sick was he,
of dealing with the all the cooties,
that he kissed the dance good-bye.
There was a girl named SaraLee,
who liked glitz, giggles, & green tea.
She wrote so much silly rhyme,
that she ran out of serious time,
this girl who highly Americanized high tea.
There once was a gal with a patch of carrots,
worth about 24 karats,
when along came a retired gold miner,
who needed them for his shiny diner
to garnish his Welsh rarebit.
She broke the Rule of 3
by having 2 kids,
looked both ways
before crossing a one-way street,
& never listened to her gut—
it didn’t like pizza—
& who could trust something
She showed her husband
that rule makers
taught her kids
to never trust drivers
in a world
where cell phones & cars
& told anyone who’d listen
that guts over 35 inches
didn’t know what
they were talking about.
Calendar took life one day at a time,
whereas Clock lived in the moment.
When they crossed paths
at a Timekeeper’s Conference,
they saw the value in their vocations,
for she was responsible for a person’s D.O.B.,
he, their T.O.D.
She saw the faces of angels in the clouds,
of family members in the wood grains of her cedar chest,
& secret messages meant for her in the books
that had been given her by friends—
all watching her & warning her,
so that she never felt alone or lived without certainty.
Some say she suffered from paranoia,
from mere pareidolia,
but she would say that she lived in a world
that spoke to her personally,
surrounded by the divine & the dead & the little things others missed
because they didn’t know how to read between the lines.
In this world, she felt the peace that had eluded her as a child—
before she’d been touched by an angel,
before she’d found her birth parents in the cemetery,
& before books had opened her imagination to the possibility
that all things were possible.
Her obsession with Mother Goose,
& Dove candy wrappers
gave her life not only cadence
but a sticky sweetness
that made every day a Friday
with a 5 o’clock shadow.
She let her daughter watch her read,
to show that it was fun.
She let her watch her write,
to show that it was hard work.
She let her watch her write letters,
to show that handwriting still mattered.
She let her watch her
make Christmas cards & bookmarks
& all manner of 2-D textured art,
to show that creativity
didn’t always happen in front of a screen.
She let her watch her exercise,
to show that movement,
in whatever direction,
was the way to a better life.
She let her watch her bake,
to show that good things—
like cake flour–
could come from a box.
She let her watch her eat vegetables,
to show that,
when prepared properly,
they were delicious.
She let her watch her watching her,
to show that the little things she did
were of interest to her.
Her mothering wasn’t just
in the lessons she told
but in all the words
she did not say.
She’d battled acne & algebra in her teens,
only to battle wrinkles & job insecurity in her thirties.
Her twenties had been that interlude
& being of advanced maternal age—
when she had floundered
in the DNA soup of uncertainty
that crashed inside her,
sometimes drowning in her own blood.
Then the surprise child—
a gift from God through His patented design—
had snapped her out of her dreamlike existence,
& it was then,
& only then,
that she began to fully live her dream.
The Shutterfly Edition
All through her childhood,
her mother had been behind her,
safeguarding the cupboards
& cabinets under the sink,
making sure her food & baths
were not “Papa Bear hot”
& her feet not “Mama Bear cold,”
pulling the car over
to fix the straps on her car seat,
remedying hazards she had created
(which always included Legos),
watching her when she took her to the park,
keeping one hand on the grocery cart,
& following her closely when she wanted the freedom
to walk around & look at toys,
& checking all the locks
on the doors & windows,
because so many in the big world
wanted a little girl,
though her mother never told her why
until she already knew why.
According to the world’s standards,
her child was neither the sharpest
nor the brightest;
she would never know how to solve
the world’s problems,
maybe not even her own,
but if more people were like her—
possessing an empathy so many lacked—
there would be fewer problems to solve.
She had grown up believing that children
should only be seen & never heard,
but when she realized
the errors of her raising,
her children were too deep
into their electronic devices
to want to say anything.