My father didn't believe in air conditioning
on the May and August airless voyages
from college to home, home to college.
Cuts too much power!
No A/C in the Caddie, between Southwestern Virginia
to suburban D.C., over the Blue Ridge
and woven valleys--
the open windows conspiring with my father.
He smelled of Old Spice gone bad,
Soggy grapes left out at a picnic.
When we arrived home to our columned porch,
at the end of the long private road,
my mother expected the long white
diagonal marks crusting into my dad's
blue polo shirt and my favorite black sundress.
Didn't turn on the air conditioning, again,
She never said A/C because my
mother never shortened anything.
Ice Cream Party
The girls' pale plaid dresses brush
against pink walls and their patent leather
Mary Janes kick the white tiles.
Two balloons escape
into the rafters, and I haven't tasted
even a teaspoon of ice cream.
I won't, not on this day.
It's my third birthday,
the high voices squeal above the store's
door chime. Hands clap-
they are my mother's,
The guests all disappear like popped bubbles,
the high-ceilinged section empties.
The girls go home because I'm not
behaving, so my mother says. I never
find out what I did wrong, but I
remember her saying:
I love you, but sometimes I don't like you.
For a long time I feared the chance
of friends leaving early.
Will anyone love me when they know me?
Will they show up at my parties?
Now after a decade of marriage
and two children, I fear my tongue-sealed invitations
go unanswered. While cradling my white wine
I don't want anyone to leave me.
I smile too wide, needy for crammed rooms.
Bad Cactus Blues
Every cactus craves water and sunshine,
but you'd say you don't need any
of that nonsense.
Your soil stays sandy,
a hint of dampness, but never too much.
You smell of fresh garlic,
on toast just before it burns. You sprout
wide, filling up your shrunken pot with roots
scared of color, infiltrating
all corners of your territory.
No other succulent can compete with you
since you are always right and demand others
to share in your green, scalloped perfection.
Your needles grow long and venom-tipped
when I enter the room; you can't help
comment on my fat thighs, new laugh lines
and low class friends. I try to hug you
to make your pain go away,
but you don't want my touch,
perhaps your needles will break
and then who would you be?
You say plants are easier
to raise than children and I agree.
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