Things My Mother Gave Me (That I Did Not Ask For)

shoulder pads
a cigarette burn on my left shoulder
her middle name

a battle with me at the middle
second helpings of mashed potatoes
too little pride to succeed, too much to ask for help
how to win Monopoly
how to cheat
how to cheat the system
Nintendo 64
an excuse for asking

“Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Really, are you so sure?”

love
a crush on David Bowie
crushed ice from the refrigerator
Days With Frog and Toad
days spent on the road

One, two, three, four, five / Everybody in the car, so come on let’s ride

one, two, three, four, five…years of silence
someone to mythologize

Mother Medea in a cropped top
grooves humbly as any green girl through
her ruined lot, taking stock
off shelves at the Stop n’ Shop
just for shits and giggles.

lessons in astrology
enough clairvoyance to see beyond the tip of my nose
lessons in cosmetology

“A girl can always use more _______ .”

scrunchies
and bowls of Cap’n Crunch cereal
[Argh!! she’s a pirate, Halloween 1996]
how to change the mask without changing the costume
how to dance the Macarena
Kraft macaroni and cheese
Fifty bucks in government-subsidized dairy
and bottles of Similac
little-to-no tits, but nice nipples
sensitivity to mosquito bites
the last bite of her dessert
Strawberry Shortcake and Cabbage Patch Kids

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man / Bake me a cake, as fast as you can
a good man to call Uncle

Pat it, prick it, and mark it with B / Put it in the oven for baby and me

a better man to call Daddy
a promise

“I promise to be better.”
or two
“I promise the zoo.”
or three
“I promise birthday cards.”

a birthday.

I’ll Be Home for Xmas

 

I swept the stuff and the shit and the sayings [that were given but not asked for] under the mat.

I got stuck at the mirror all morning, from the first second after my second helping of breakfast was consumed, through noon, when it stopped being cute [to have an imaginary friend] and became something not unlike schizophrenia.

She wants you to put on a nice outfit, do your hair up right, take out the trash.

There’s a good side of me that recognizes the significance in having a room and a body to live in, fortunately. And so, I keep my corners clear. Before settling here, at the only cafe counter in town where there are coasters not carousels of condiments and paper nappies, I swept the stuff and the shit and the sayings [that were given but not asked for] under the mat. And I dressed up. If, any minute now, a stranger should sidle up beside me, the barista might rightly testify that I was asking for it. Imagine a girl [young adult woman] alone but for her leather notebook and inky pen, on Xmas Eve, and try not to assume that she’d be receptive to spitting on anything [from semantics to semiotics].

She wants you to make a public display of affection, a show of your agency, and strip off all the layers that you did not lay yourself.

Once, a dog ate my history, and so I had to rewrite it…

My self and I are neither “hanging out” nor halfway to the altar. This is a [the first official] date, the one that we will use to measure the depth and scale of our love. She has been asking me [to come] out for two decades, but there have been good excuses and better reasons to skirt her invitations. Once, a dog ate my history, and so I had to rewrite it, on the opening night of some subversive flick that could have [coincidentally] changed our course [mine and his] sooner. As for the other times, I was busy. She would call [again and again] just to say “It’s me!” and it was all I could do to tu-tu-tu-tu, seeming less harsh a tone than the truth.

She wants you to stop playing, cut the chords, and listen for the old bray of your heart.

I am home.

What is home if not where one goes looking for love?

Six months ago, the greatest love of my life moved to Reno, Nevada, but I [being reluctant to follow a woman] did not go. Instead, I put her down as my plus-one to holiday parties in Salt Lake City, Utah; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Edmonton, Kentucky; and Charlestown, New Hampshire, knowing that she could not afford to travel. She said, “I do not have a plane, or a train, or an automobile, but there’s a bicycle on Craigslist for $40.” And so, I have met her here — for a cup of coffee, and a two-wheeled tour of the Biggest Little City in the world. What is home if not where one goes looking for love?

Would you like to throw a stone at me?

There’s a rat-a-tat-tat on the window
that my imagination takes for bird’s
play — swallow — and then I see her
dancing, with her twin in the glass,
damn narcissist, she’s asking for it,
go splat
at my feet. No feathers?
There’s a feet, or two, or
a pair of Converse shoes
faded that familiar blue-
like lavender but not so sweet-
smelling as bodies do when hot
so hot so fucking hot are you
here on some errand? Here, winner
take all that’s left of my peach.
Pat of butter? Cup of sugar?
I have none nor the patience
for solicitation
for polite salutations
or whatever it is that you’re trying
to sell me today.
I want to give more
than what fits through a window,
so, if you will,
please come to the door.

My First Place

lamplightIn the northwest corner
a tent for the sun
diffuses light muted divine
across this uncarpeted territory
that I deign call mine
but rather than bask
in the afterglow
of an energy bill paid
and my utility proven
I shut the lamp again
until it cools
“it” being the bulb
but also the fear
of being outgrown
as toy is by child
of being the child
who outgrows
the clinging
the tantrums
and toilet accidents
the infrastructure
for success
in health and happiness
that I built last season
when legs were shorter
and it made sense
to sit on his shoulders
for a clear view of the stage
beyond the next hill
beyond the walls of our bedroom
beyond “us”
and I stand
corrected of all errors made
under the influence
of the status quo
the normative hetero-
and other biases
on the subject of
how women and men are supposed to live
together
to live creatively
and I shout
I was an artist before we met
before he gave the go-ahead
by commenting on all my pictures
cute!
and I will stay an artist regardless
of how I use (or do not use)
my sex
and I sound
self-righteous and overexposed
to darkness and solitude
but I am not low
because my ego is so high
and I step
off my soap box taller
the tallest in the room
knowing one thing to be true:
for as long as I am here
I will not be where he went.

Love Letter Manifesta


Starting now, I choose to adapt to a higher standard of living.

Up to this point, my experience as a creature on this fine planet has been a whirligig of emotions, peace-becoming-turmoil-becoming peace-becoming-turmoil. Erratic is a good word, one which I tangentially define as “of or relating to New England weather.” I have never seen a year without four distinct seasons, so the choice of whether or not to adapt–to new colors and patterns on the ground, and in the sky, and the new dispositions that accompany them–is not one that I have practiced making. The person who I am today has been built upon an accumulation of abrupt transitions, she has witnessed (both in herself and others) so many changes in heart that the only outcome that feels safe to assume is impermanence. Last night, you saw me swinging, somewhere behind the eyes. In the weeks following my arrival, the arc of the pendulum within me has shortened, enabling me to feel happiness unchecked; the present moment is objectively good.

I do not need love to stand in for hunger, health or shelter…

Starting now, I choose to adapt to a higher standard of living. I give myself permission to seek out friendships and companionships with other walls, standing strong and tall, who love and respect themselves as much (or more than) me. I give myself permission to ask for what I want. I want someone to share beautiful things with, who challenges my definition of what it means to be extraordinary–or better–someone who refuses to differentiate between the mundane and the extraordinary, who finds purpose in his or her life not through acknowledged status and accomplishments but through anonymous acts of kindness and art making, guerrilla gardening, an authentic drive to die having enriched the planet and the lives of those plants and animals who inhabit it. What I want is a rare breed of person and a nuanced connection that requires more time to marinate than my previous self would have been comfortable with. Fortunately, the present moment is objectively good.

I resolve to show respect to those people and items that nourish my body.

I do not need love to stand in for hunger, health or shelter, for friends, family or therapy, these “basic needs” are, at long last, met, and I find myself in the position to want again. The easy, expectationless process that we have chosen to unravel each other is something that I have wanted for a long time, yet I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision for me. By some intuition, I continue to treat our interactions as little bites of a pie, the size and flavor of which remain to be determined, chewing each at least fifty times. Though both food and company are easily accessible to me, I resolve to show respect to those people and items that nourish my body, my soul, my heart.  Our day together was an anomaly in the scheme of my year and week and life, inviting me to experience the full range of good emotions–attraction seasoned with camaraderie and shameless festering–without imminent pain on the horizon. My intention: one good day at a time.


These past months of bashful salutations and stolen eye contact have transported me to a place of cognitive dissonance. After overreaching, and not being met halfway, the natural response should be to feel alienated from you–but, instead, I have noticed our connection deepen in density and thickness; new pathways have emerged to bridge the silence, while the old have been tread into permanence. All beings emit noise, above and beyond the sound of the breath, it’s that buzz-and-whir of the reel (some call it the brain, I’m sure) turning over, and over again, in the same way; forever. I did not tune my dial in search of your frequency; on the contrary, I tried to give up guessing at your thoughts, but every space you enter swells–made grander by your modest music, a trio of flute, panpipes and the whisper-whistle of the wind through a willow tree. When you are far, the air is too quiet; close, too loud
                                     

but the third bowl of porridge was just right
.
.
.
I love you


The landscape of my desire is all wilderness; there are at least 5,000 acres imagined for solitude.

We are both thankful for a thrift store being open on Sunday, as our hunger for Capezio T-straps with Teletone taps (me) and a poorly rendered portrait of Cesar Chavez (you), had it been otherwise, would still lay dormant. We are both in agreement that the capacity to want a thing immediately–without history, or context, or even a middle name, should be preserved, but disagree on the question of how to use it. The landscape of my desire is all wilderness; there are at least 5,000 acres imagined for solitude, and all other primitive and unconfined forms of recreation. I do not care to scale every inch, to build trails that loop back or lunge forward. I do not care to know why it feels sexy to ride bicycles wearing jazz shoes, or if it makes good sense to love you, I just do.


pheromones

  • burnt sage
  • brown bananas
  • dance sweat
  • used bookstore
  • masa harina
  • castille soap
  • brackish water
  • bruised lavender
  • the month of June
  • wet socks
  • sidewalk chalk
  • secondhand shirts
  •  supermarket pastries
  • sun-dried blacktop
  • hot coffee
  • cold crepes

Song of My Selfie

In 2013, “selfie” was named the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. It is an informal noun (plural: selfies) defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

I.   I monitor myself, and sing myself,
and compose the truth you shall assume,
for an arched brow only means as much as it signifies to you.

I choose to discard my soul.
I cut ‘cross puckerbrush, and plant dandies
among the summer grass.

My teeth, every incisor in my mouth, chatter in the open air.
Born with a  jack-o’-lantern grin, of parents who loved me all the same,
I, now thirty-seven paces tread into solitude, begin,
hoping to survive shutter-death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
retiring reliance on cultural scripts, undocumented, but never
forgotten–I capture myself, for good or bad.
I permit the image to speak every hazard nature has imbued
and, in its irregularities, reap energy.

II.  The house is deserted as a chestnut, rotted from inside out.
With perfumes, I concoct the fragrance of myself, and like it.
The vanity would noose me by the nose, but I shall not let it.

The phthalates are not necessary; they are dangerous and disruptive,
odorless, and potentially toxic, but I am in love with the bouquet.
I will haunt the powder room, doused in chemicals and naked,
smelling of red dye, unpicked.

The stress in my bated breath echoes and swarms,
in buzz’d whispers, a scandal creeps the vine.

My active mind puts me at the party, sniffing on green leaves,
punching air into my lungs, sucking off cherries, and swallowing their pits
for kicks. The sound, O, the siren sound, of my chalky heels striking
the cellar floor, eager for a few light kisses, a few embraces,
an offering of arms.

In dreams, I play synesthetic: mouth open, tongue wagging in delight,
imbibing each balsamic beat, spit-shadows trailing my hill-sides.
The feeling of  weak acid cleansing the body, from inside out,
imitates health, and encourages me to rise.
At the trill of full-noon, I will rise to meet someone.

III.  I have seen how the gawkers are gawking,
with mock compassion, at my reaches and bends.
But I refuse the hands they offer to lend.

There was never any more protection than there is now.
Nor any more depravity than there is now.
And will never be more fornication on cable than there is now.
Nor any more hoots and hollers than there are now.

Urge and urge and urge.
Always the procreant urge of the world.
By God’s word, go forth and multiply.

I have heard how the doctors are doctoring,
the doc-talk of the baster and the twine.
But I refuse to be dressed for their holiday tables,
my cavity a mere incubator of precious stuff.

Sure as the most certain sure, the experts are plumb
in the uprights, well-entretied, braced in the beams.
A thousand acres sown with x chromosomes,
logic assumes I improve my sex–they promise.

My offspring will possess a ubiquity of things,
white towels swelling the house, crystal vah-zes
breeding dust mites in the den.

My offspring will be stout as a horse, affectionate,
haughty, electrical, with a soul so clear and sweet,
neither an inch nor a particle reminiscent of me.
By the word of Science, she will be progress.

IV. Menarche, the first horror, the beginning
of conjugal war, of feverish loins, of pit stains.

Pornographers surround me, people I meet,
around town, on the train, in public restrooms,
at the office, behind the house, or ward, I live in.

Their scopophilic gaze compounds me,
I am oddball, wastewater, womankind, nothing
fit for the respect of some boy, or sage, I love.

The thickness of one lip more than the other,
engorged like a grub, renders me complicit,
an actor in the defamation of myself.

A part in the hair, or breasts, I am splitting.
Apart from my cherry, I am broke.
She is my idol, my amour propre, my unitary self.

The serpents look down, are erect, or bent, at rest,
arrested, looking with side-curved heads, curious,
what will come next, tongues darting in and out,
enraptured by the game of watching and wondering.

Backward I trace in my steps where I erred,
but I find no such incrimination.
I have made no mockings or arguments,
I have witnessed and waited.

The First

We finger-fucked in Latin class,
and got away with it
by playing make-believe.

You were a concert pianist,
plucking the Bumblebee
in my panties.

I was an airline pilot,
preparing your cockpit
for the ascension.

We wasted our ripest years
playing bride and groom,
feeding off each other’s

Daddy issues, and
sharing everything but
the wet dreams.

You dreamt of MKs and
premeditated revenge
on mustaches, bottlecaps,
and Camel packs.

I dreamt of reading banned
books beneath streetlamps,
and lapping lattes at 9pm.

We thumbed rides off I-89
and hurdled over state lines
to bod-mod joints
in Vermont,
where they’d ink a kid
without permission.

You marked your body
ab imo pectore
in my name.

I marked your words
and hoped to die, survived
by warm-hearted man.

We begged consent of our parents,
and mine named you Hamartia:
the downfall, the bad boy phase.

We begged consent of our parents,
and yours named me Femme Fatale:
the one who plants ideas

of education, insurrection,
and riding two-wheelers
without protection.

lovers are lunatics
who speak with tongues and teeth,
in a language of promises

too big to keep,
in a language of lies
they dare call poetry.

We turned eighteen
with the leaves, and
dropped our love in embers.

You enlisted your body
with one hand, and tied
the other for safekeeping.

I enlisted the help
of my better judgment
to find an exit worth making,

and made it.
ab imo pectore, ego contristo
for leaving you.

Blue Collar, Khaki Pants: The Making of a Wal-Mart Man [Essay]

    My father’s father was born into the callused hands of a vegetable farmer who groomed him for a life of labor. Till the land. Sow the seed. Don’t have me tell you twice. Cuff ‘side the head. In that day and age, wives were bred to capacity; four daughters plus five sons equaled eighteen hands, full.

    My father was born into tar, feathers, and chicken poop, on the cracked-corn floorboards of a coup. His weekends were oriented around the achievement of three objectives: (1) slit the throat;  (2) pluck the feathers; (3) sell sell sell. Kennett boys have always been goal-oriented and strong, but shy, as if handmade cogs for other men’s machines.

   As a young man, Brad had grander aspirations than shoveling shit, so he saved his coins for education and adventure. When his cap hit the ground, he vowed to hit the road and drive, just drive, as many miles from that piss-poor town as his leaking gas tank could stand to propel him. At nineteen, he descended the stairs with an announcement caught in his throat. Mama, I want wings. Let me go to Kitty Hawk. I’ll come back a pilot, a professional, dressed in pleated pants and soot-shined shoes, the works.

   In her solar system, motherhood was the sun; with an empty nest, Patty felt about as useful as a heart singing to an empty chest. But, with four celestial bodies, could she not spare just one? She could and, ten years later, brother and sisters would be scattered, like marbles across an ever-expanding dugout. As mothers know, and youngest sons do not, the baby is precious and rare. Patty refused to barter with her cat’s eye, so Brad stayed home, and made a baby of his own.

   A single father, with a baby on his hip, will take the first job he can get. In 1992, when the machine shop closed its doors for good, Wal-Mart was our godsend. They offered eight dollars an hour, plus benefits, and a whopping 25% discount on edible merchandise. Looking back, I imagine they must have known that we were starving; the frugal fisherman baits with his baseline when the fish have no choice but to bite. In 1992, when formula became the new liquid gold, Wal-Mart was our godsend.

   Like a crop circle, the store seemed to materialize overnight, in a lot that had been empty for ten years, matted over with clover and crab grass. No one had seen them coming, especially to a town so modest but, when the higher-ups issued a press release, they thanked the community for its warm welcome, and insisted that the pleasure was theirs. A wise man once told me: “Never throw your filet into a hot pan without butter.” Looking back, I imagine they must have known that one too.

   The grand opening was an affair of local acclaim, grander even than our town-wide yard sale. When I close my eyes, a void lies where the miniature horse is supposed to be but, at least, we captured it in a snapshot. Upstairs, in the tackle box where photos go, my father and I are posing with four men in fresh-pressed suits. When my father tells this story, he uses m words: meet-and-greet, mingling, mustaches, mind-wash. From the periphery, it appeared a carnival, with popcorn and bouquets of smiling balloons, but that was before he learned how much Wal-Mart spends, and can afford to spend, on maintenance control.

   In his first year of employment, Store #1975 hosted a half-dozen public relations events. As a natural introvert, playing grill master at sidewalk barbeques did not lie within his comfort zone. Yet, Brad was a good ol’ boy and everyone knew it. The customers loved his crooked smile and salty sarcasm but, most of all, loved that he was someone they could imagine grabbing a beer with. He accumulated more sunny ‘hellos’ than could be counted, drafted a mental list of his favorites and, slowly, human interaction became comfortable, even fun. The big boss took notice. In April 1993, one year following Sam Walton’s death in Little Rock, Arkansas, Brad was granted reign over Lawn & Garden. Not bad for the son of a butcher.

   The shark lures the minnow into its mouth by pretending to be a cave, a home. In 1998, Wal-Mart introduced The Neighborhood Market, a small-concept model designed to emulate the experience of shopping in a mom-and-pop grocery store. Ten years later, the corporation began aggressively expanding this division, pitching their growth as an altruistic attempt to increase food access in urban communities. The most rewarding element of working for Wal-Mart, Brad tells me, are the opportunities for employees to “give back.” In the time I have known him, he has shown sympathy for few social movements, but food justice hits where his heart lies. At home. My father was born into a home with cobwebs in the cupboards, raised on peanut butter n’ mustard sandwiches and, sometimes, on nothing. Throughout my childhood, our holidays were spent volunteering at local food banks and soup kitchens, stuffing cavities at the Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive and, of course, serving steaks fresh off the sidewalk. Those were sentimental days for the both of us, though he never said as much, his restrained tears told me so. As a boy, the companionship of neighborhood kids helped Brad feel full. As a boy, he promised they would “get out” together but, with only four major employers, steady work does not not come easily. So, as a man, Brad lent his hands, choking up every time he filled the empty mouth of a friend.

   A wise man, my father once told me: “Never bite the hand that feeds you.” Sometimes, when he’s feeling cynical, Brad has to remind himself that Wal-Mart does “good work.” They have become the nation’s largest grocer, stocking more pantries than Stop N Shop, Hannaford or Food Lion. He has to remind himself that they stock his pantry too. There aren’t enough mom-and-pops to feed America and, even if there were, Wal-Mart would drive them into the ground. He has to forget to remember this. When I fled the nest, he accepted the salary position that they had been grooming him for and, as he ascended the ladder, a broader picture came into view. “At the top,” he says, “they do not care about people, they care about demographics, market trends and, most of all, money.” When my father tells this story, he drops “corporate greed” by the dozen. From the inside, he still sees a carnival, with popcorn and smiling balloons but, differently somehow. This year, he will work sixty hour weeks during the holiday season, and make penance at the turkey drive.

Ten Truths and a Lie [Monologue]

1) My third grade teacher, Missus Kara-Jane Crosley, singled me out and was always cross with me.

“You hang upside down on the monkey bars, wearing denim jumpers crafted from old overalls. You speak in gibberish of counting stars, and stand your ground when I say ‘No, only boys come from Mars.’ You come in late after recess time, and fumble the words of every nursery rhyme. Kayla, there are two types of people in this world: you and everyone else.”

 My Body lies over the ocean

My Body lies over the sea

My Body lies over the ocean

Oh, bring back my Body to me . . .

 2)   A child of the seventies, my father grew up pining for a color television, which was a luxury his family of factory workers could not afford. When I was ten years old, he bought me a twelve-inch set for Christmas, and displayed it like a trophy on the shelf above my head. Watching re-runs of

Sex and the City made staying up past bedtime feel all the more rebellious. I wonder how the children of the seventies learned what their parts were for.

3)  I removed my thorn-torn stockings, patched the wound with gauze and sap, and descended the stairs with an announcement caught in my throat:

“Ma-ma, I am a maple. Ma-ma, I’ve been tapped. Peter popped my cherry behind the sugar shack.”

“Oh, that’s nice honey, how was track?”

4) A daily dose of progesterone kept the baby away, and Planned Parenthood let me have it without parental consent or co-pay.

On October 30, 2010, the day Drew and I became exclusive, he flushed my pills down the toilet, called me a junkie, and swore he would rather be alone than watch me poison my body with artificial hormones.

He said, “I want to wear a condom,”

and I said, “Thank God for that.”

“Charge them with your card; don’t worry,

I’ll spot you some cash.”

5) “Joanne, we’re gonna need a vomit pan in here,” crowed the nurse, as I gripped the stress ball in my palm so tightly that she half-expected to see juice and clotted pulp dripping from my wrist. I retracted my limbs to keep them from whipping in the wind. I was a tortoise. I was a gyromancer. For once, I was in control.

The results arrived three weeks later, sealed in a broad manilla envelope colored like mustard: straight negatives. I breathed sweet relief into my cupped hands, still shivering with anxious anticipation. That bastard cost me fifty dollars, eighty-three cents, and an immeasurable sum of pride.Always buckle up before you ride.

6)  Before I turned vegetarian, and cut out all white foods, my favorite meal was barbecue chicken quarters, tucked into a warm bed of instant mashed potatoes. Hungry Jack ate his legs whole, and so did I, from drumstick handle to upper-thigh.

It may be said that “you are what you eat,” but I grew neither bird’s legs nor bird feet, so I switched to a diet of nuts and seeds, to end world hunger and fight disease.

7)  I broke three years of fidelity to have sex with an ex, and it wasn’t even as hot as I thought it would be. We fucked four times — in the men’s room at South Station, against the front door of his apartment, on the kitchen counter tops and, once more, under the shower(for the sake of conserving water). We fell asleep on opposite ends of the couch, each cradling a paper cup half empty with Honey Nut Cheerios, like grown-ups engaged in a real grown-up affair. That night, I dreamt I was an animal, and woke up with a tail between my legs. Home wanted to know where I had been, “How was your weekend? Did you have fun?” I laid down three aces, and waited for him to call bullshit, but he never did. I am a good girl who does very bad things, but only when I know that I can get away with them.

8) “Ms. Kennett, I understand that you prefer to be called ‘Lucy,’ is that correct?”

The receptionist donned a puzzled expression, as the patient paused to puzzle over her question, separating its syllables into columns, scratching plus and equals signs into the cheap pressboard desktop.

“Ms. Kennett?”

That time, I nodded, but neither confirmed nor denied it.

 [to be continued]

 9)                                                                                 [to be determined]

 event related to exploration of sexuality

 10)                                                                               [to be determined]

event related to intimate partner violence

 11)   I want to feel the force of my wrath and swing, smashing all the delicate things, but I resist, and in resistance, find strength.

 Bring back, bring back

Bring back my Body to me

Growing Pains [10-Minute Play]

GROWING PAINS

by Kayla Kennett

CHARACTERS

JOSEPH, a middle-aged man of rural upbringing

ALLEGRA, his daughter, early twenties

PLACE

A garden at peak harvest

[Lights up on JOSEPH and ALLEGRA, each seated on individual benches, facing the audience. JOSEPH wears a plaid flannel, blue denim jeans, and work boots. ALLEGRA wears a denim jacket, in a matching shade, over a simple A-line dress. They speak past each other, unaware that they occupy the same space; no eye contact.]

JOSEPH:  (arms folded into a cradle, singing)

 

    The other night dear

     as I lay sleeping

     I dreamed I held you

    in my arms

                  (rocks arms)

    But when I awoke, dear,

    I was mistaken,

    so I bowed my head and I cried.

 

ALLEGRA: (stoic, staring ahead) I was only eight years old when he ascended the stairs to my bedroom, brushed the heartbreak from my eyes, and cooed “Sorry, love, this night will be our last.”

 

JOSEPH: (confident, charismatic) I didn’t give a fuck about Y2K. What could be more terrifying than a daughter’s eighth birthday?

 

ALLEGRA: When it came time to blow the candles, I stole three wishes; two for roller skates,

(pauses to smile) and one for more good-night kisses. But, he said “No, they are too dangerous.”

 

JOSEPH: That year, she hosted her first sleepover party (laughs, and becomes more animated)

. . . and I thought one bottle of nail polish was something to choke on. Six little hens, giggling and carrying on, playing round after round after round of “truth-or-dare.” For the first time, it hit me – I’m growing a woman. (nodding, directing his eyes offstage) And I thought, Joe, what the hell have you gotten yourself into?

 

ALLEGRA: (in a younger voice) Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be just like you – but taller! (returns to natural pitch) After sprouting six inches in three years, I had no reason to believe that I was made of anything but magic beans.

 

JOSEPH: First, she grew up (ALLEGRA stands) and, then, she grew out (ALLEGRA puts hands on hips) but I saved “the talk” for the professionals.

 

ALLEGRA: (dropping hands, planting feet) He planted an acorn in the center of his garden, right between the bell peppers and sugar-snap peas, without considering that, some day, it would become a tree (sits and crosses legs).

 

JOSEPH: Even if I had stopped watering her, I couldn’t have slowed that girl down; she branched out quicker than I could prune her back.

 

ALLEGRA: We used to drive down to Lake Warren every Saturday, armed with boxes of bait and tackle. (almost chanting) Cast-Snag-Reel. Cast-Snag-Reel. He taught me well, but I could never match his skill. (in JOSEPH’S voice, agitated) “I didn’t know we were fishing for rocks!”

 

      (ALLEGRA chuckles.)

 

JOSEPH: The Homecoming Dance fell on a Saturday night; I guess it was my mistake to assume that she had her priorities right.

 

ALLEGRA: My first corsage was made from carnations – not roses, or even chrysanthemums – but I loved it all the same. We were over a mile from my house before Ethan did so much as hold my hand.

 

JOSEPH: (sneering) That fool called me on the telephone to prove himself a man, flaunting all of these fancy words, as if he were asking for her hand! (imitating ETHAN, speech is confident but slightly stuttered) “Hello, sir, this is what’s-his-name, may I please escort Miss Allegra to the semi-formal, it’s happening one fortnight from now?” (shaking his head) To me, she could only ever be my Ally-cat.

 

ALLEGRA: (blushing) Ethan taught me the difference between loving a man, and being in love with a man.

 

JOSEPH: (choking up) She was only eight years old, when I ascended the stairs to her bedroom, wiped the heartbreak from her eyes, and bowed my head to say, “I’ll tuck you in tonight, but not tomorrow – you’re a big girl now.”

 

ALLEGRA: It is said that you cannot pick your family but, at least, you can pick your friends. Someday I will become a tree, but our love will never end; Daddy, I choose you for my friend.

 

JOSEPH: As a father, you want to give your daughter the key to the city, you want her to never want for more. Some days, I kick myself, “Why did you have to do such a damn good job . . . (trailing off)

 

ALLEGRA: I left him in Kentucky, but with plenty of company: twenty chickens, forty acres, and one-hundred baby blueberry bushes. For some men, it’s a second wife and, for others, it’s a shiny sports car, but not my dad. Instead, he bought the farm.

 

JOSEPH: She was born with a green thumb, and flowers in her hair.

(ALLEGRA chooses a flower from the arrangement beside her, and tucks it behind her ear)

                 “I guess she takes after her mother,” they said, and I just shook my head.

    (JOSEPH laughs, slaps his knee)

                   That woman couldn’t keep a cactus alive in Arizona!

ALLEGRA: (almost chanting) If I should die before I wake, I pray they lay me beneath a tree and tuck me into a bed of scruffy moss – to remind me of the first beard I knew and loved.

 

JOSEPH: We haven’t grown apart. We have rooted new traditions. I mail her homegrown sunflower seeds, summer squash, and sweet potatoes; it costs me forty dollars a pop, but my Ally-cat will always remember where she came from.

 

ALLEGRA: In 1992, when autumn first descended upon our sleepy town, Daddy put me on his shoulders and we spun around and ‘round.

                (ALLEGRA stands, spins until dizzy and, then, sits down)

 

JOSEPH: (singing)

  (ALLEGRA reclines on the bench, holding her head in hands)

  (JOSEPH, with apprehension, begins to stand, but remains seated)

                 You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

                 You make me happy, when skies are gray …

JOSEPH and ALLEGRA:

 

           You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.

            Please, don’t take my sunshine away.

The End.