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.
From Wheel of Fortune,
she learned that consonants
were worth far more than vowels;
she learned that it was okay
to answer a question with a question.
However, from The Price is Right,
she learned that any show
that wanted you to act like a fool
was not a thinking game,
a guessing game.
He was Jeopardy,
she, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
He was quick
with the answers
to the questions
that were over everyone’s head
while she talked too much
& took too long
to get to her answer.
When they met Wheel of Fortune
where every contestant had
a “ridiculously handsome husband,”
a “rockstar wife,”
&/or “just the greatest kids in the world,”
they thought they’d found perfection.
For the former contestant who’d coined the term
“my hotsomesauce husband,”
the “Wheel of Misfortune” was a cross
between a waxy red round of gouda
& a disk of The Laughing Cow—
with two black lines of mold that spoiled the whole thing.
She bemoaned the agonizing minutes she’d spent,
waiting for the other contestants to complete the suffix
to the gerund in “What are you doing?”,
looking completely flummoxed when they landed on the Express,
making much ado about landing on the “million-dollar wedge”
then landing on Bankrupt the next turn,
pronouncing “n” as “en-uh”
“r” as “r-uh,”
& buying the vowel in puzzles like CHOCOLATE M_LK,
only to mispronounce the solve.
She hadn’t gone on to the bonus round
but had won a trip to a “developing country”
for which she had no other winnings to pay the taxes on.
The Shutterfly Edition
He was tuxedo English,
but when he decided to correct her grammar
she looked him up
& matched his clean words with dirty ones
to coax him out of his clothes,
only to discover that this stuffed shirt
under all that spiffy black-&-white
was a T-shirt that didn’t know
to separate itself from red.
She wrote fiction
when she wanted to forget herself;
when she wanted to remember herself;
but when she wanted to just be herself,
she wrote poetry.
As a writer,
she didn’t let people live rent-free in her head,
evicted them to the page
& gave them their just desserts,
which were anything but
just or sweet.
When Highbrow Stage
met Lowbrow Telly,
they, as part of their community service
for the passionless crimes
they’d perpetrated against one another,
pooled their talents & created
The Unibrow Arts & Entertainment Station (UAE),
until Mrs. Tweezedale came along
& plucked it.
He had loved copper-haired Kroma
with a ticker stronger than the Tin Man’s,
for she had been the perfect spouse,
but on their silver anniversary,
when his seemingly ageless wife was in
an automobile accident,
& all that was left of her
was a melted metal face,
he realized that she had been
his golden calf—
programmed to hide
her artificial intelligence,
even as his ex-wife
had revealed her real intelligence,
shattering that which was most fragile:
the male ego.
Leif dove into the ocean
for sunken treasure;
Indy dug into the earth
for buried treasure;
but when they sunk their family jewels
into Esmerelda Goldenblatt,
they realized too bloody late
that she was a jewel thief.
D.D. Wentworth was the thrift store queen
who could always be found scraping
the bottom of the bargain bin
with her ShowBiz Pizza token.
She didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together
to make fire,
but she did have a penny
with a buffalo facing the wrong way
& a 3-dollar bill
with a mustachioed Gerber baby on it.
The millions she secretly accrued,
she left to her fat cat,
& things such as funny money,
she left to her community.
The Wentworthless Museum
was erected in her honor,
where a furry, lifelike sculpture of a calico
is encased in a glass coffin,
a glass case—
a penny over one eye,
a token on the other,
& a dollar bill between its teeth.
Mick Grady had always yearned to be 1 of them,
secretly dating his hot TV mother & sister
& rubbing out Cousin Oliver.
He always believed the grass was greener
on the other side,
which, when he pole-vaulted over,
turned out to be a vintage-colored Far Side,
for there was no grass but simply Astroturf,
which was why the dog—
whose name was of a different animal—
because just as there was no toilet for humans,
there wasn’t one for pooches either.
He ran a blood bank,
she, a sperm bank.
He liked his women Type A,
or a combination of both,
but Type O’s were mistakes;
she liked men
who were more inclined to withdraw
than make a deposit,
which created too many dividends—
too many carbon footprints.
He saw the people who came in
as saving lives,
even as she saw the men who came in
as creating more problems
because for her,
more people equaled more problems,
not more people to solve them.