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tearing the rag off the bush again
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Christmas is Coming

There I was, ready for battle, same enemy,

same season. What combination did I

anticipate as the trees lost their leaves

and the commercials cameo Frosty the Snowman

and not Elvira, Mistress of the dark?

My mother’s diabolical nature performed

like the Nutcracker every December.

Three Tears


Do you want the story of three tears?

Or the story of the woman who gave the three tears?

Daughter, mother, woman:

She ran, drank, drugged,

sexed, married, mothered, cried,

studied, taught, wrote, read, “traveled,”

moved, stayed, and loved, loved, loved.

She gave three tears.

She cried three tears.

Three tears she wept.

Three tears—

three drops of blood—

she loved.


Two pages left on a plane


What do you say

when you’ve got

two pages left

in the journal

and dread

the plane crashing?


I loved:

Finally, deeply,

and wept for my life,

tears enough for each soul

on the plane.


I cried when

I heard the Danes saved the Jews,

when my daughter pulled me

from the smoking car,

when my daughters were born,

when the youngest almost died,

when my parents smiled.


I’ve been lost, found, and I loved.



Kewpie Doll


At seven,

I found my beloved

plastic Kewpie doll


hanging by her

shaved head—

mated, hooked

herringbone hair—

and torso,


I went outside—

to find her limbs—

to avoid my brother.



My Child’s Ill


And I keep imagining her funeral.

The questions people ask,

my sorrow, tears, my inability

to speak, my life destroyed, people

trying to bring me back; we all know:

I’d just wait

by the gate

for my day.

I could never survive

my child’s death.




Five Points and Happy Thanksgiving


C: I’m telling you. We’re like the book Jen gave me about Five Points.

M: In Brooklyn? We lived in Five Points Brooklyn-- by the Brooklyn Bridge. Our great-grandfather owned a liquor store and made his money selling booze to the workers.

C: Same thing. All the Irish came through Five Points in Lower Manhattan via Ellis Island.

M: I don’t know? Is this that movie? Gangs of New York?

C: Yeah, but no. I read a book.

M: We came in through New Orleans; he came north with the army. Fought for the south.

C: Then, when he came north he came through Five Points.

M: Five Points? Manhattan?

C: Right.

M: Okay!

C: Anyways. There’s this gang-guy that has a woman named Bloody Mary.

M: A nice girl, right?

C: Yeah, no. She shaved her teeth to points and wore metal claws.

M: Nice. This is the nice part. What for?

C: To fight the other guys.

M: The other guys?

C: Other guys in other rival gangs.

*Hey mom, that’s what you looked like when they took your caps off.

M: Nice, thanks. Same name.

C: Didn’t they call you scary Mary? In high school or college?

M: Thanks.

*Nice. Scary Mary. Why? Because of her teeth?

M: Shush. No, I wore a lot of black. Back to Bloody Mary.

C: Okay. Do you have dentures?

M: No, veneers.

C: Rotten Irish teeth.

*Crack head mama.

M: I was not. Stop that.

*Nana didn’t feed her.

M: Yeah, this woman I work with said, ‘Did you get new teeth?’ I said, all embarrassed at the expense, ‘Yeah, I’ve got rotten Irish teeth.’ And she tells the group of professors, ‘Poverty and poor nutrition.’ Nice. Right here in Jersey.

C: That’s cause you ate gumdrops for breakfast.

M: That’s why kids don’t run the frickin’ world.

*Crack head.

M: What’s with you and the frickin’ crackhead thing?

C: Leave her alone; she knows you were a freak.

M: Nice. Nice. Happy frickin’ Turkey Day.

C: Freak-barefoot, ditch-dwelling freak. Hippay, Jersey Hippay. Flute smokin’ hippay.

M: Jesus. We’ve got to ruin the nice flute part. Now I’ve smoked crack in my flute?


C: Pot?

M: Jesus.

*Pot head.

-You smoked pot in a flute?

+And crack?

&Did you mix them?

C: Later in a pipe!

*You said they didn’t have crack back then?

C: They had crack; we just called it Meth. The bikers made it in the garage and cut it with gasoline.

M: Someone shoot me.


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