About the (dys)functional poet: Nanette Rayman Rivera, author of Project: Butterflies by Foothills Publishing and alegrias by Lopside Press, a two-time Pushcart nominee is also the first winner of the Glass Woman Prize for non-fiction. Publications include: Oranges and Sardines, MiPOesias, Pebble Lake Review, Whistling Shade, Gold Wake Press and the Worcester Review.
Too many tragedies. Too much lack.
The stink of crack and a moldy tooth, a gray loon
dives smugly under the murk of lake.
You know how to cordon off the poor.
You want to kill us. We’re just a cause
way, a through line, because of the glut of odd
fate and eclipses that took away choice.
Our caves, skybeds, housing projects all
mountained with dreams crammed muggy
in moving crates inside no-color walls
crowded with roaches forming dance lines,
pretty as June Taylor dancers.
We’ve put them on a regimen of Xanax.
The flamingos stand on both legs;
don’t care to come out of the cold.
We’re no longer reverent, only irrelevant.
Potential job prayers our covenant.
Because our imagination is a laguna
with a loon in it, lair over-tipped, resigned
and forever. Because we are annulled.
Because we’ve taken the wrong turn
that was the right and just path. We are purgatory’s gorgeous girls
who slip under the sonar. Because the inner beat
stores its aches once too often
til yearning or a stranger stuns it: guns us down to say:
O, you should have been in pictures.
only visit to my mother
I unclasp the cot, slowly, I
open the eyes of this bed, get
two pairs of 99 cent panties
out of the bag – blue flowers on white,
corral coral. Not much choice, and I
get the nightgown’s flimsy pussy
willow, faded and put it on.
I came with nothing, a swallow, a furrow
so I can yearn ‘cause I yearn so well. I sink
into hard caesarian eyes of the bed, take off
my new Peony Cloisone lipstick, and hang
the blue curtains on the window’s smear
to Neruda’s red branch. Weeping
willow grips air the way teeth grip gums
as they age and no longer hold them.
The bed doesn’t suit me, its pistachio
shell crisp its mutton, my head
touches the pillow, it is peace, it is quiet,
the coins of a large world have dropped in some slot.
A tiny TV shows Lifetime of a girl
with her face cut to mince. Handsome
doctor will fix her for free, such is love. No
she cries, not ‘til I see my mother, and my mother
tsks a few times: that girl is crazy, why are girls crazy?
Her voice an elevator on the way down. Oh
here she comes closer, my mother, or rather
an imposter who buys me cheap panties and gripes.
But here she is, feigning care, so this is rapture
by the headboard light. Or rather cot-metal cold.
Or rather performance for the perusal of my father.
The sheets are white cotton and clean, beat.
My father is paradise, a tall drink of Man
ishevitz, a man who accounts for things, and he’s
accounting for panties. These are what you bought
her – her mother? He comes back with twenty-five
dollars a lot for that time, buy pink and magenta, cerulean and lace.
And woman, you mother, how could I have thought you’d bring manna?
Where have you been all my life, mother—
with your impatience, your snicker, law and order? I’ve been
In the garden of this house and that, while I slept on the street,
pussy rag-ed, pussy willow weeping, pussy, you are.
In another garden, bee to bee, in the willows
weeping for a makeup, a structure, a platform embedded
in my belly at such a high heat it would alchemize my flesh,
waiting ended when I found a man, a short drink of coconut milk,
a man same as my father but Puerto Rican.
Posing there, by the old 45’s and lava
lamps, waiting to grow into a big beautiful doll,
sweating where the love-bead curtains
tinkle, leaning on the sideboard railing, your own small
fist shoved in your mouth. You sit on your father’s slipped belt. I
wish I was Barbie, grown and gone, you’d say, already hippy, violin-i—
maple pushing out the ripped taffeta of your dress. No mother
would help you while you were enchantress. Smelling man and peat
moss as bones lurk against the gelling fever.
Your cheek is a feather, silken and round against the fedora.
One more time the lassitude till dinner, the hum
of one large fan. Mocking thunder.
Your hands bend about dresses and stockings, claw-clenched
and gritty to assuage your after-thoughts.
You warned the other dolls, made them aware of their dis-
graceful state, throwing them far, palms bitch-
slapping hard up into headboard’s pool of perspiration.
Your mother will be yapping in the garden’s middle soon,
angry the other dolls are mangled and fearful
toward fathers and insects who’ve gone on to feed
on simpler dolls. Ostrich-headed against you, somnolent orchid-
doll, the way you rock yourself in your own arms,
charily stretching your legs
so your white dress, your white panties stay fresh.
Your pretty wax body afloat the dreary odor
whipped by a lullaby of rain,
comingling with cattleyas, languishing and clean-away.