the compliment catch-22

one night you tell me that I
look especially beautiful.
I find it hard
to accept this gracefully
because a tiny, stupid
part of me is already
thinking about all the nights
to come in which
you do not say that and
how that part will think
that I must look bad
– or at least,  not
as beautiful, which
to that part is the same thing –
or that you’ve fallen
out of love with me, and
even though the rest
of me understands logic
and how I can’t be
equally beautiful
every night and how just
because you don’t compliment
me every night it doesn’t mean
you no longer love me, still
that part begrudges
current Brookes her compliment
on behalf of all the future
bitter slighted Brookeses.

this is why she feels like
compliments are a trap:
better to avoid the whole
thing and disbelieve
than accept it now, only
to regret it later.

Ouija II

who is that girl
who let so many
people beat her up?
we’re so ashamed of her, no wonder
she won’t come forth
to tell her story. have I met her
yet, is it someone
I know? where did she go?
come out, come out
wherever you are. olly-olly

use the planchette
to spell your name. we’re
doing another roll call.
don’t bother knocking on the table
or making the candles
flutter, we need it
in words.

who’s the girl
who taught herself to read
at age three, who still vividly remembers
the Richard Scarry book
with the picture of Lowly Worm,
she felt so incredibly sad
when she read those words
but didn’t know why
until many years later, because I
was a lowly worm,
crushed under mother’s heel
for so long. how the hell
did that child even know what
“lowly” meant? come, tell us.
even the worm must turn
and have her day.

Roll Call: Lila

Lila is the girl
who was bullied in elementary school
and camp, who was angry
that those girls were so vicious,
who wanted to fight back
but didn’t get to,
because it was all
so very petty, and maybe because
other parts of me thought
we deserved it. after all
my own mother told me I was
useless on a daily basis,
who’s to say
she wasn’t right?

Continue reading Roll Call: Lila

Roll Call: Anne

is the 14 year old girl who went away
to a new summer camp one year
and decided to change her name, to see
if the reason the other girls
at school and at previous camps
didn’t like her was because of her
weird name, if it somehow
made her act weird. her experiment kind of

she named herself after
Anne of Green Gables,
of course, and insisted on the
extra “e” as the only correct
spelling, even though her own
aunt is named Ann. (she felt guilty
about that, of course, but not
enough to refrain from doing it.)

Continue reading Roll Call: Anne

Roll Call: Page

is the exhausted mother
who got no sleep for the first 6 months
after I was born because
I had colic and cried constantly.

people who believe
in reincarnation say
that if a baby has colic it is because
two souls are fighting to be reborn
in the same tiny vessel
and when the colic stops it means
one of them has won. I wonder
who won mine?

Page just wants
to be left alone. she doesn’t want
to take care of these brats
with no help from
her husband. she misses
her own mother
every day, though they can never
be reunited. she’s a self-made martyr
who constantly wants attention
for her selflessness.

Roll Call: Bucky

is the three year old who ran
into the street and made
my mother chase her,
who dragged that same mother –
extremely pregnant with
my sister – up and down the stairs
of all the brownstones
on the street. she’s
the one who wants just exactly
what she wants
and will brook no
opposition, even from
herself. she was the child
who picked up everything she saw,
and studied it very closely,
trying to find out all the details
about how it was made
and what it did, observing,
forming hypotheses. one time she
was picking up bugs
around the pool at
that summer house my parents
were staying at and she
picked up a bee, which promptly
stung her. she says
it was worth it. that bee had such
velvety golden fur with
bold black stripes, and the wings
were so cunningly
crafted. she’s a naturalist, an engineer and
a brave explorer at heart.

Roll Call: Catherine

is the glamorous, depressed,
chain-smoking artist,
a fatalist, very sarcastic
and funny but always
with that edge that can be used
to cut herself. she’s Dorothy Parker
but she doesn’t even care.
nothing can touch her
ineffable sadness.
that’s what makes her
so very cool. a goth and a hipster
before they existed, she’s too laconic
to even say any more
at this juncture, except to note that
rumors of her death
are pretty damn accurate,
because she dies inside
every day.


get out
the board. we’re going to
summon up some
spirits. since I have to live
with you teeming myriads,
you ghostly throngs, you
entities that can never be
laid to rest, I suppose I’d better
buckle down and learn
your names. that way
when someone fucks up
and does something stupid,
ill-advised, or totally
unwarranted, I’ll know who’s
to blame.

the battle

almost every day I fight this
pitched battle
inside my head. one part
of me says I’m worthless
I’m dying
fuck my life
kill me now
why bother to get out of bed
no one will ever love me anyway
what is there to live for

and another part yells at the first part
for being lazy and useless and privileged
and a garbage human
and still another part says hey, what if
we pretended to act like a person
who doesn’t hate herself today?
what would this mythical creature do?

and so the eternal war
between my selves goes on,
and sometimes one part says
he didn’t write back, he must hate you,
what’d you do this time, you idiot
and most of the other parts tend
to want to believe whatever narrative
makes me feel the worst
about myself at any given time
and so you see, I’m hardly ever really fighting
with you. sometimes you get caught
in the crossfire between my selves,
that’s all.