A Rescue Plan for the Woman who Lays in Bed Whining

Tyra would not get out of bed on her thirtieth birthday
or let me celebrate with her in any way
although she left the door open so I could let myself in
she tucked the blankets into all her edges
including her feet, with only her face bare
stubborn and grimacing

I tried to untuck her for a tickle into laughter
but she had armed herself against that favored tactic
I told her I would buy anything she wanted
or that she could buy it herself
because she was so much more successful than me
–nothing.

Then I huffed up my frustration and almost turned away
I muttered, Well, you’ll have to give up
And keep me company anyways
Because all of the idiots are going to do stupid things
And start dying off around this age

She didn’t say she didn’t care or cry or moan
so I looked over at her to find my reward
that she was grinning, so that was what worked
she slowly dressed and let me take her out
for dinner and dessert

now I refuse to answer my boyfriend
because I am thirty and unlike Tyra
spend almost all my time sleeping
so he prompts me with the baby voice
he uses to represent our puppy
a voice I could never argue with

and says, I have one hero, my mommy!
Oh really, Grendel. Why is that? Mommy hasn’t ever
accomplished anything but giving you belly rubs
and making you dog food omelets.
Not true, mommy! You saved me three times!
Really?
Yes.

The time there was a price on my head
You saved me from the Russians in Lynn
Who kept me in a cage and lied about my heritage
as if being a purebred would make me worth more than I already am
you saw past my knotted hair, bad breeding and ill manners
and paid an exorbitant price for me, always saying I was worth every penny

then at the dog park, when that scary dog put me in his mouth
and shook me while I screamed and bled
and all the other pet owners stood stunned
you ran past them, punched that dog in the mouth
and rushed me off to the hospital
where you held my paw and sang me songs

and then when our house burned down
you picked me up before you even put your shoes on
and carried me out snuggling my nose into your jacket
to protect me from smoke inhalation
and cooed to me so I wouldn’t be frightened
and rubbed my feet so they wouldn’t be as cold
as your own feet were getting, bare against the snow

you have done way more for me
mommy, than Tyra could ever have dreamed
of doing good for anyone by the time she was thirty
so how is she more successful than you, again?
I don’t know, I answered, but I’m feeling hungry
so I got up smiling, and dressed slowly for our dinner party

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Almost enough

It’s not true that everything was lost in the fire

I could still pass for eighteen

If I didn’t deign to wrinkle myself with a smile

I still have my pet and my lover

It’s the same as it ever was

I still have those jobs I would be so proud of

If my mother never put them down

everything could be almost enough

…and out come the vultures

i dont know how many snakes are in my midst
relying on kindness is alot easier that relying on trust
because you don’t have to wait to see what happens
and I am a shaking, distracted mess

i have to deal with insurance agents
identity theft in the form of old friends
claiming to want to make a direct donation
to my bank–even my wallet was stolen
in the nanosecond i got distracted
oh, and a curmudgeonly professor
is aiming at my scholarship
three months before my graduation

i just lost everything
do they really want to take what’s left?
I guess I’ll find out
right in time for Christmas
how destroyed i really am

Housewarming

my students and teacher’s aid
are all undocumented immigrants
when I first came to America
I drove forty minutes twice a week
to volunteer as their assistant
just this year, I became their teacher

I had to tell them about the fire
because I lost all their homework and test papers
and I didn’t have time to plan their lessons
so I didn’t miss a day of work
but that first day, I was disorganized
and my hands shook

I asked them to all go around in a circle
and talk about their thanksgivings
before I announced it
I said, I have bad news
I dont have your tests back
and this isn’t my dress
and I am going to try to do the best that I can
but youll have to practice some patience
because im not at my best

they looked at my boots and asked me
my shoe size. I said im really ok
please dont worry. a week later
I made the announcement:
I have the best news in the world
I found an apartment!

I didn’t think twice about answering
their questions. I’ll live on Lafayette street
I move in the 20th of December. I have a bed
from a girl in Boston.

and they said, teacher, we have to have
a celebration. and they gave me a card
with a puppy on it and so much joint money
the envelope wouldn’t close and my teacher’s assistant
overheard them speaking Spanish

and told me, by the way, on December 20th
you should plan for some company
because the women are all housecleaners
and they want to clean before you move your things in
and the laborers have taken off work to move your bed
and if im available, I also plan on coming to do what I can

and I cried at the same time that I was grinning
thoughts of what kind of food and drinks to offer
swiveling in my head; these are my students
I remember their birthdays. I take pictures of them laughing
so I can frame them and give them back as gifts
I feed them when theyre hungry and remember when theyre sad
I know their work schedules, ive mourned for the deaths of their pets
and those were just fish! I can’t imagine a better way to move in.

it happened

i could tell my situation
made some people uncomfortable
one invited me to dinner and said
ill cook, at least i have a kitchen
and my emergency housing
felt insulted so
i didnt end up going

so many of my little prides
were injured in the fire

two people have said
“I can’t even imagine”
in response to my stories
one called them depressing
well, i wanted to say
it happened

how do you lose an urn to a fire
some of those rooms were just melted
floor to ceiling, bare wires hanging
black where before there was wallpaper
vacation pictures, collages
i had a beer in each apartment.
how do you watch your neighbors
lose everything. and how did we
survive it?

An old Lady (but I still got it!)

i refer to myself as the fire woman
when i ask for favors
because i dont like to identify myself
as a victim

but i needed just a couple of things
a roll of toilet paper, five minutes to sleep
my legs are still full of stumbles
my eyelids are drooping down to my neck
and i often forget to eat

why havent i slept? strict time limits
i had to find a home before i freezed out on christmas
my crisis team included a pro bono lawyer
a dear friend’s sister’s on again off again boyfriend
a college professor turned chair who was “appalled”
by my school’s lack of housing, the mayor and her assistants
two realtors, one from my aunt’s church, one from facebook
and three laborers who’ll refuse to let me pay them
but ill try hard to anyways because they are my students
one of which, after class, waited until everyone else left
gave me a hug and said “I don’t know about fires
but i know about homelessness”

my solution for emergency housing
left me thirty years old and the new girl on campus
and you know, the best part about all this has been
the young college boys’ reactions
when they see me walking down the street
with bags that are too heavy. they have stars in their eyes
when they run to help me-me! and im an old lady!