Category Archives: Hot Take Poem

Routine Magic

Attention, please–both from and to the very best
of audiences any company could ever hope
to play to, so we hear–that cellophane
you’re crinkling deci-bells itself far, far beyond
your little ears–and also, when the music starts,
post-intermission but before the actors
reappear, that’s not your cue to talk
a little louder–no, it means shut up.
What’s more–I could go on. I won’t. It’s just–
we’re so lucky that it feels routine.
Each night they crank up the volcano, test
the atom bomb, make love from paper, walk
a cobweb tightrope, grow trees from lowly beans….
We’re privy to it all, all summer, face to face.
There is more than routine magic in this place.

picture of lit path with nearly-full moon

American Players Theatre on a moony night.

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This is the last weekend for up-the-hill shows at American Players Theatre and for most of the shows in the Touchstone Theater. A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins later this month and runs through the middle of November–I’m super excited to see it.

It was a fantastic season and I’m so happy it’s not quite done.

The first bit of that very nonce-y sonnet up there–that’s me being crabby. I’m more and more comfortable being crabby. And then the sestet–that’s me being appreciative. Which I’m also more and more comfortable being.

So lucky to live down the road from this routinely magical spot.

The Sea-Lion Literary Awards

There once was a trope so wrongheaded, I’ve never forgotten
how fetid: “a woman’s period,” (the very young man said)
“the falling ash at the end of a lit cigar.”
The women in the class (of course it was a class)
said together like a chorus, “no,
no, no, it’s nothing like that, not at all.”
And now we’re grown up and now we’re grown old
and where is he now, that redhead?
In the bar where the mermaids wait tables, an old man
leaves a tip on a napkin: “You would be so much prettier
if you smiled more.” He looks less at her face than her ass
and at home he writes poems about “how her titties are
shooting out her shirt like two cannon balls.”
No one needs to read it to think “not at all.”

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Just killing time before a movie–there was a Twitter exchange about dirty old man poems & I was inspired. (The title relates to the Twitter exchange.)

thot-this

This Specific Grief So Far

The braille of my hives reads “nettles,” which
I’ve tackled just in time this spring, instead
of waiting until they’re taller than my head.
I should cook them up but won’t. There is so much
I am not doing with this gift of time
that was stolen just today from a woman younger
than me with children younger than mine. Also, her
good words reached farther and did more work than mine.
In this specific grief so far, what have I learned?
The God we prayed to didn’t grant our prayers.
Some plants protect themselves–beware. Beware–
female stinging nettles produce more stinging hairs.
I see pain and possibility everywhere.
“O death where is thy sting?” Right fucking here.

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Rachel Held Evans, a writer I admired and learned from so much, has died. She was one of my favorite thinkers on Twitter and I appreciated her blog posts and books. I never met her. I never said “I think you’re great,” not even in a tweet. So there’s this sadness, in proportion to how much she occupied my brain and engaged my heart, and there are so many others hurting so much more.

What else can I say except–read her if you haven’t already. And we all need to understand what she said in her last blog post:

“It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called ‘none’ (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’

Death is a part of life.

My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

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darkness and light and pain and pleasure

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(At some point, I will be more in the mood to celebrate her life. Right now, I am grieved and angry, and I feel confident she would support my feeling of my feelings.)

Oh children let me tell you of the 80s

Oh children let me tell you of the 80s when
we learned about gay because so many of
the men we loved got sick, they died, so
now when people try to calm themselves
about political mayhem they sigh and say, “Well,
we survived Reagan, we’ll survive ________.”
We say no, we didn’t, we didn’t all survive,
we didn’t, some pretty ones died,
they got skinny and sick with awful red blotches.
People wouldn’t touch them. Doctors wouldn’t
treat them. People wouldn’t say the word.
Reagan wouldn’t say the word.
I will say the word Reagan wouldn’t say,
AIDS, I’ll say it and I’ll also say
I blame him. I blame him. I blame him.

The ones who didn’t die, we worried they would,
the pretty ones, the ones who did their eyes better
than I ever could, and some of them loved women,
too, but we knew they loved men or
maybe they did or they just didn’t care what we knew
or what we thought we knew and we loved them so much
it turned out we didn’t care either and
they’re part of why we have non-binary rainbows now,
but children they’re dying now, too, too
soon, some of the prettiest ones this year, and
your middle-aged people are crying because
we were young and pretty once and
all the prettiest ones are dying.

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Red wine in a blue glass #sad

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Update 12/26

One of my students last week was saying “Freeze frame!” and other students knew the song, and I said, “Wait–are you talking about the J. Geils band?” Yes, they were, they love it. This was in a class where they were practicing teaching a p.e. unit to elementary students (I volunteered to be a naughty student so they could practice how to handle that). One of the lessons involved teaching us the words & motions to “Y.M.C.A.” I asked one of our staffers (who was also volunteering) if he thought students knew what a big part that song played in gay culture, and he didn’t seem to know it, so I’m guessing students don’t, either.

So the 80s are back, but as far as I can see, in a pretty shallow way. Which is fine, except there are things that are important to know about the 80s, including AIDS. One of the reasons I give away condoms on campus is that I heard on the radio a couple of years that the only demographic group where AIDS cases were going up were college-age people in rural, white areas (my students, in other words). I suppose I could look up the stats to be more precise, but the point is, as with so many things, there’s so much they don’t know.

Some caveats: I remember spending so much time early on when we talked about AIDS saying over and over again “it’s not just a gay disease,” and it wasn’t, and isn’t, but we nearly lost a generation of gay men, so many of them creative and amazing–what would the world be like if we could’ve slowed it sooner?

(I also remember that we said to each other that men wearing so much makeup didn’t mean they were gay–or two earrings, or one earring on the right–and of course it didn’t, but we wondered. I remember spending a lot of time wondering. Just barely post-adolescent, I remember how sad I was to find out some singer I loved was gay because that added one more layer of impossibility he’d ever marry me. I felt the same way when I found out Walt Whitman was gay, because not only was he dead, he wouldn’t have loved me like that, anyway. Because, of course, it was all about me.)

And another thing–I revised the wording here a little. The day after the election there were several tweets saying “But we didn’t all survive Reagan/Bush.” I can’t find one that said “The thing is,” but I woke up this morning worried I’d copied the wording too closely. So I changed it. If I find that specific tweet, I’ll link it.