This is a version of one of the poems in Geography of Girlhood, in an earlier incarnation:
The Architect's Daughter
Two days before our house burned down,
I have a dream I'm hovering above the town.
I see patches of snow on the land,
I see my house
with its triangles, floating squares
and deep tubs.
And there's my father,
knee-deep in the sand
of his half-finished garage,
and my step-mother,
fleeing from the kitchen,
crackers growing stale in the cupboards,
the cheese molding into hard curls
like my hair in seventh grade.
I see them collide in the hallway,
my father and Martha,
they wrap around each other like vines.
From up above the land
I see them crawl and cycle
towards the bedroom,
Martha's cheeks as red
as the ointment
she used to slather
on my scraped knees.
They duck under a beam
and they are lost to me.
I am left hovering up above
my own house,
bits of hunger falling
out of my hands,
spinning to the ground and
landing like ash on the snow.
Here's a poem inspired by Darren, the artist who did my tattoo way back when.
I make my living with one hand on a girl's ass
and the other on a fuse box.
Three nights a week I'm in a room
filled with soft noises
or the brittle silence of men in pain.
Like any good artist, I have a poison pen;
like any good citizen, I pay taxes.
Sometimes, though, I like it too much,
the endless carving,
the pop of certain needles,
the ink on a punk rocker's breast.
And tonight, while a skull and bones
is travelling from my fingers
into the arm of a Merchant Marine
and two girls are giggling in the hall,
I wonder what I'm doing here,
if I can take one more day
of a brunette's blood on my hands,
or my best work
walking off into the sunset.
The girls are squealing oh gross
and the Marine is grimacing hard
and I'm taking their bodies and changing them,
I am taking their lives
and making them my own.
And here are a few poems with adult narrators, both of them kind of works in progress...
A Meteorologist Responds to Heartbreak
I was real estate.
I was planets.
I was everything I ought not to be.
I had been groomed so well for success
that little was left of my hair.
Suddenly, that winter, they called
to say I should come back,
that the weather hadn't been the same without me.
I was cement cloud.
I was fume.
I was frog. I was spade.
I was in love with only the things that would betray me --
sports teams from Canada
I was easily, excitably, starry with fatigue.
I was tongue-tied even when I wasn't talking.
I told them my leave of absence was helping me
misunderstand myself better.
I told them that all that spring, somewhere inside me,
a man pumped iron,
a boy bit the head off a cat,
a curd of valentines laid themselves to waste,
girls I never knew lost their footing,
guys I grew up with tossed a ball around,
cops arrested people for standing in the wrong line,
kids gave chase, children were born
and in a flickering leave of the light,
I made myself sick over you.
They told me that
maybe I was fine where I was.
The sun was shining after all
and if rain started to fall
it wasn't my decision,
it just happened,
the way things do
The Valley of I Hate Myself
After a few days of You can have me if you don't hurt me
and You can kiss me if you promise to leave soon,
you pack your stuff and head south.
You drive down past the ranch style homes of I like to watch it burn
and the freakish dust bowl of If I can't have you no one will,
and into the valley of I hate myself.
Forget the bad weather and the dead weight of ghosts,
the plus sides make themselves immediately clear:
if you plant something, it is almost certain to grow,
if you want to live off the land, there is plenty of it.
Every night the moon is full
and the torrid hum of people having fun '
well, it just isn't there.
As far as neighbors go, they're far from nosy.
They stop to say hello only if you're armed or bleeding.
They aren't interested in the feel-good moments of
I think I might come clean or
I know I can fix what I once so carelessly broke.
They only want the good stuff '
the cheating on the husband, the booze, the drugs,
the solemn way you broke everyone's hearts, mostly your own.
They like to hear about all that time you wasted working as a waitress
when you could have been Making Something of Your Damn Life.
Guilt is the religion of choice here
and every Sunday, the pews are full of people
who've come to sing the songs of Kurt Cobain and Karen Carpenter.
The stores are stocked full of meat and cheese and alcohol
and the meth labs are clean and well-run.
The coke dealers are so well-liked
one of them ran for mayor and won.
It's no wonder people never day-trip down
to the nearby town of Everything's coming up roses
or attempt to try the new Chinese place in Life's what you make it!
Your favorite part of your new home are the walks you take at night.
One night, you stroll past the recycling center of self-loathing
and the dumping ground for dreams that die hard,
and head onto Main Street, stopping to peer into the local pawn shop.
That's when you see it, a reminder of why you're here:
a locket with nothing in it but a dime-store photo,
a heart-shaped trinket that wants to tell the wearer
that the thing in her chest
couldn't possibly be as empty as it feels
and that if it's up for sale much longer
maybe somebody will come along
and buy it.