Trusty diplomats allow us to pay little heed
to international slapstick. Instead
we are free to dwell on loftier things:
local, literary, marital drama.
I have been to countries
where world news is as relevant
as the forecast. Where word on the street
delivers – EXTRA! EXTRA!
news on the state of your bladder.
Where the public is oh so personal
(and personal affairs public).
These days we live in such a run-on
that outrage leaves no break for breath.
The drama has spilled over the stage,
breaking the levee of the fourth wall,
drowning us all.
Today I met a man
with a face he wasn’t proud of.
It looked like mine.
I did not mind; I wear mine
better. A trendsetter.
It is terrifying to wake to
ants in your bed. Is nothing
sacred? You want to yell at them.
You feel them everywhere.
In the touch of the sheets,
the fabric of the night,
the threads of your own hair.
Embattled, you beat them back
but cannot rest anywhere.
I remember a woman
whose bed was made of
concrete, whose pillow of grass.
She came to me with eyes that saw
no sleep: I’m hiding in the open,
she said, from a man
who touched me and didn’t ask.
Write to me – a letter
because my phone has died.
Or rather, I killed it.
It was killing me,
demanding every second of my time
(it is my time-keeper),
interrupting my every thought
(do I think anymore?),
throwing me into oncoming traffic,
I am no Monroe; I wasn’t built
for the lights (nor was Monroe),
and it was pushing me onstage
in the middle of the night.
I am in a state where guns
are law and my finger is on the
home key. When it’s not,
and I’m not home, I am lost
in the woods, lost to the world.
The lost generation was lost
in thought, and we?
Are irrevocably found.
You are traveling without the baby
and you realize now
that the baby is a human shield.
When they see him with you,
they are disarmed, at ease.
They speak his language
and can only wonder about yours,
until, finally, you do speak.
It’s like the miracle of baby Jesus;
your English is evidence
of your mother’s virginity.
You are late, but better to miss the flight
than admit your apprehension.
Everyone is apprehending terrorists here.
Your own luggage incriminates you
when you step away from it to pee.
Do not leave your luggage unaccompanied;
it is needier than the baby.
Smile. A lot. At strangers, especially
as you make your way to your seat.
You are unlike other women.
Your smile will not be taken
as an advance. Your smile
is a public service announcement
that you hold no grudges
that you might wish to detonate
thirty thousand feet in the air.
Take your mom’s call,
but do not speak to her
in your mother tongue.
Your mother tongue is terrifying.
Your plane touches down
and there’s an inaudible sigh
of relief. Your fellow passengers
smile at you more easily now,
you regular person you.
Thank you for choosing American.
I have been alone with the baby all day
on the brink of madness and yet
when he walks in, I take out the canary,
He kills the canary, because his day
has been long and awful. In fact,
he takes pleasure in killing the canary,
makes a show of killing the canary.
I am not teary because, through a stroke
of uncertain luck, I see double: his way; mine.
I see the importance of being wary
when we’re too weary to be kind.
There’s a reason women quilt.
Their time is shredded
before it’s handed to them,
before they’re told to
make something of it.
Painstakingly they work
after the kids have gone to bed,
and the man has been fed.
Pricked out of their own sleep,
they rise at the threat
of the threaded needle
to piece together
organzas of stanzas,
doublets of couplets –
forging a whole out of bits
If you look closely, you’ll see
revolution in the stitches.