Plain faced

They didn’t tell me

I was born ordinary

I felt it, a prickle in my bones, growing

plain-faced, my father reminded me

“work on your personality”

my mother, beautiful, smart

didn’t understand how a child of hers

could struggle to spell

behind thick glasses and a lazy eye

then she packed up and left

we were making an art of being fragmented

the other kids had families, after-school-clubs

swing sets, puppies, they hung upside down

and even then, looked the part, white teeth

straight backs, glossy well brushed hair

as if they had read a script on how to be

(able to survive the world)

and knew all the secrets

they didn’t tell me why I didn’t fit in

it wasn’t autism, no label, no category

a box of unopened reasons sat

in a dirty suitcase

on my kitchen table from 6 to 14

I ate my breakfast cereal reading a comic

like every other plain faced girl

dreading Summer and the wearing of shorts

the development of freckles and tree houses

succor for outcasts

my best friend and I ate

sweets that rotted our teeth

in the boughs of tenements and crying cement

where tired-looking women who were

probably only 25, the lines of their labor

etched into thin skin, hung dirty laundry

to be further muddied by the belch

of a merciless bloated city

I always felt

wrong

like the cuckoo

planted in incorrect nest

and if that is how we thrive

as I heard the other day

“challenges help you grow”

then bugger that for a laugh

because I developed a desire to dig

down

deep into black wormy earth

where the molestation of days

could not find me with their rage

call me a coward

well you did, many times

your disappointment hotly apparent

on your puckered nicotine laced lips

it didn’t disuade me

I learned on the easel of rebellion

ran hard and fast as long as I could hold out

on piss and vinegar and the immutability of youth

it seemed then …

easier to say ‘make me’ than

save me

it seemed easier to fight futile battles

and lose ground

than see a future that never

seemed distinct

they called me a bad kid

and I ate it hungrily

with a swig of soda

tepid from sitting in hot sun

Below zero

Snow I have always

been thankful for your expunging

whiteout

how you take dirt

and suffocate it

beneath insistent layers

the wild and untame methods of your

settling, blown like befuddled

birds in all direction, swirling in

lost echo, falling eventually to

sugar-coat the dim world brighter

as pipes fail, their fragile egg shells

bloated with trapped water

a parallel I think

to our own shuttered lives

When I was a child I would

be told

do not go out in the snow for long

you will catch your death

and I hoped

very much

that were true

for to sleep

a red rose in bosom of white

I could fancy in my child’s mind

no greater perishment

though fancy and its

myriad ways of suggesting

death

grow less appealing

the older we get

Now I avoid slipping on ice

for fear of crushing my elbow into

shards like my father did

I see in the distance

my grandmother’s dog

he is trying to eat snow flakes

and puzzled when they melt

barks into whiskering storm

I think he speaks for us all

in this grand illusion

half wanting to be

taken off by encompassing whorls

carried to ice palace

where surely the meaning of

everything can be found

along with my mittens I lost

in tenth grade

stooping down to place

the cherry in

my snow robins

breast