Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Happiness Poem, written on November 1, 2, 3, 2016

happiness is when
i wake up with music in my head
it could be a sanskrit chant
or maybe aretha or martha and the vandellas
and it stays with me all day

happiness is when
my mother sends me an email
that contains only symbols
hearts, stars, fruit, silly animals, red exclamation marks
and i know she's been having fun with her smartie phone

happiness is when
i ride in the car with the love of my life
and we come to an open stretch of road
just as thousands of leaves
come dancing by — right to left and back again

happiness is when
i feel a bit drab
and then remind myself that
i can put on mis-matched socks
and i do

happiness is when
i decide i just don't care
and i let the leaves blow in
and i don't
vacuum them up

happiness is when
a friend sends an email
that says TY TY TY
and i don't know what it means
but then i figure it out: Thank You Thank You Thank You

happiness is when
i buy a new box of 10 pens
all different colored inks
and feel secure
for at least one month

happiness is when
everyone who is expected arrives
the circle is complete
a grey wet morning

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Thanksgiving Letter (originally published here on November 20, 2011)

Thanksgiving Day, 9 a.m.

Dear Ava,
I’ve been up since six, bet you were too, and I wish I could have come over but Daddy says it’s slutty the way I run over to your house all the time and I told him it’s not slutty when it’s two girls but he said he’s speaking metaphorically and anyway this is Thanksgiving (like I didn’t know that) and it’s meant for families to be with families, which is just plain stupid, but anyway that’s why I’m writing to you and not talking to you in person and as soon as I can get out the front door without being caught I’ll run this over and put it in your mailbox. I hope you look there. Try to read my mind this second: M-A-I-L  B-O-X.
Do you like this paper? It’s not really purple. I know it looks purple but it’s called mauve and no I didn’t spell it wrong, my grandma sent it with a note telling me the color because she’s always trying to improve my mind, so get used to this mauve, you’ll be seeing a lot of it, who else would I write to?
She also sent me a book, "A Child’s Garden of Verses," she is so two centuries ago, but I don’t want to be mad at her because the reason she’s sending me this stuff instead of waiting until Hanukkah is she thinks she might be dead by then which is really sad. But on the other hand it’s not sad because there’s nothing wrong with her, she just gets seasonal dread she calls it, but if she’s still alive on New Year’s Day then I’m really going to be mad at her for being so negative about life.
There was a lot of activity in the kitchen this morning, Dad and his new live-in girlfriend playing around with the turkey, giggle, giggle, giggle. I stayed up in my room because watching them make out over a naked animal would turn my stomach, but now they’ve gone back to bed and it’s quiet as the grave though any second I expect to hear her panting and oh-my-god-ing and I'm sure this is not good for me, mental health-wise, but Dad, being a psychologist, would probably say “Facts of life, Dorrie, get used to it.”
So I'm just wondering about something: “quiet as the grave,” what do you think? Is it quiet in the grave? I doubt it. Gross. Hold on a sec, I’m going to change the channel in my mind. Okay, I’m back.
My ex-step-mother and her two gnomes will be here at one. Is this the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard of? My father is like one of those men with a harem, he gets his ex and his current to come and fuss over him with their cranberry sauces and we’re all supposed to act like it’s normal. He says “We make the rules, not society” but by "we" he means "he" because if I made the rules I’d be at your house right now and we’d have mac-and-cheese from the microwave and we'd play with the Ouija board until our finger tips fell off.
One of the things I’d really like to know is how a woman who is old enough to drive still can’t figure out the meaning of the word vegetarian. When Dad’s live-in realizes I’m not going to eat a single ounce of that 300 pound turkey there’s going to be World War 4 in the dining room. My ex-step-mother might even start crying. She’ll be sad because now that she’s a guest in the house she won’t get to call me names and throw fits. But you never know, anything can happen, I’m sort of hoping for a food fight with the two gnomes, for old time’s sake.

So now it is so much later, how did this happen?
You might have noticed I still haven’t managed to get this letter into your mailbox, hope you haven’t been waiting there, that is if you read my mind in the first place. Did you?
There’s something of a scene going on downstairs, I’ll tell you every single detail when I see you tomorrow, but for now just try to picture this: After the so-called feast my ex-step-mother stood up and recited a poem she wrote especially for the occasion. I thought she would have outgrown that sensitive phase of hers, but apparently not. It was a very long poem, seemed like 3 hours, and I didn’t understand all of it, but I think it was supposed to be erotic, and it kind of upset the live-in who might be living out soon. Hallelujah.
This is the last letter you’ll get from me on this mauve paper. You remember Jeffrey, one of my former step-gnomes, well he was hanging out in my room — don’t ask me how he got through the barricade — and it turns out mauve is his favorite color, which was something of a shocker but not in a totally bad way, so he’s taking the whole box of stationery off my hands except for one sheet which I’ll use to write a thank you note to my grandmother. I couldn’t get him to take "A Child’s Garden of Verses," though. What did I expect? It’s only Thanksgiving. They don’t promise you miracles on Thanksgiving.

Look for me early in the morning, I’ll be right there on your doorstep. You'll know it's me because in spite of everything that happened today I still look the same. On the outside.

Love, Dorrie

Thursday, November 17, 2016

the bronx: small poems (revised edition)

the bronx
dad fears the monkey house
refuses to take us to the zoo

the bronx
sweet smells from down the hill
stella d'oro cookie factory

the bronx
my father is well-known
in every chinese restaurant

the bronx
1965 — blackout —
we don't own a single flashlight

the bronx
singing leonard cohen
all the way to school

the bronx
friday night dinners at grandma's
we never say the blessing

the bronx
every time i leave the apartment
mom asks are you prepared?

the bronx
roller skating in the building's hallway
the old people hate us

the bronx
dad says
stop talking about vietnam already

the bronx
a short subway ride from yankee stadium
but we are not a baseball family

the bronx
my sister smears her mouth
with candy lipstick

the bronx
dad takes me to my first movie
davy crockett: king of the wild frontier

the bronx
all i want to be when i grow up
joan baez

the bronx
mother says
stay away from apartment 6E — (trick or treat)

the bronx
my sister and i want a pet
dad buys us a goldfish

the bronx
everyone in the building knows this:
never go down to the basement

the bronx
happy birthday to me
a box of 64 crayola crayons

the bronx
someone gives me a kazoo
bzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzzz

the bronx
mom says something shocking:
the hell with shari lewis

the bronx
mom teaches me to crochet
one granny square makes a dress for barbie

the bronx
the first family death
i don't know what to feel

the bronx
run over by a bicycle
tire marks on my body

the bronx
skating around the corner
it's like a different country

the bronx
oh happy day
i pass my junior high typing test

the bronx
every morning
talk talk talk talk radio

the bronx
strange men on the street ask
why so serious?

the bronx
dancing with an older girl
we win the lindy hop contest

the bronx
i buy an ankh pendant
my family is confused

the bronx
my first guitar lesson
go tell aunt rhody

the bronx
odetta in concert
grandma likes her deep voice

the bronx
a patch of blue
we declare it a five-tissue movie

the bronx
dad gets his first car
i'm afraid to ride with him

the bronx
i'm warned
don't even look at the hare krishnas

the bronx
the elevator is always broken
i take the stairs two at a time

the bronx
so many pot parties
i never manage to inhale

the bronx
two spices in the cupboard
but mom doesn't use them

the bronx
a neighbor calls me
rebel without a cause

the bronx
my grandma invents
vegetarian chopped liver

the bronx
my father has many rules
for slicing bagels

the bronx
the dirtiest word i know

the bronx
nobody else likes
pistachio ice cream

the bronx
decide: who is better
helen keller or clara barton

the bronx
my first major crush
hayley mills

the bronx
every girl in my third grade class
gets a toni home perm

the bronx
i feel so grown up
my first bottle of jean nate bath splash

the bronx
one day dad announces he is

the bronx
a sneeze from next door
i call out gezundheit

the bronx
we play knock hockey
until it's time to watch bonanza

the bronx
crime and punishment
i carry it with me everywhere

the bronx
i go to the wrong apartment by mistake
how did everything change while i was out playing

the bronx
dad says if we owned a house
we could have a junk room, not just a junk drawer

the bronx
some girls get princess phones
i do not

the bronx
the answer is always no
i'll never get to wear nylon stockings

the bronx
i discover that olives
make excellent finger puppets

the bronx
men place bets in the candy store
off limits to children

the bronx
my younger sister, my mother, and i
identical dresses

the bronx
my own library card
little house on the prairie

the bronx
that bad man in the button store
flirts with my mother

the bronx
after the blizzard
men on our block take turns with the shovel
the bronx
dad grows a beard
i stop kissing him