Aubade for What Stayed in Reno

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Oh, darling one
I wish I may,
I wish I might
have that wish
we made last night,
on that bright star
neither first nor right
but fixed as it was
to the grid of light
seemed a safer bet
to count on to stay
twinkle-twinkling
than a dumb rock
in the sky, though,
not so dumb as we
who got hitched
to a deadline
not certain, as we
who bet love
on some number
of days before
the Chapel of Bells
goes under.

Oh, bright star,
would I were
steadfast as thou are,
could take your
leave-taking
with no hand
in the jar
not reaching
for crumbs
when there’s cake
right in front of me
full of butterlove
the better love,
the solid, yellow,
stick-to-the-ribs
kind of love;
with no head
under the bell
not stewing
on what you are
hanging aloft, alone
in Reno’s sour air
when there’s someone
who cares, standing
right in front of me.

Oh, sweet heart,
so soon we part
— yet, you are
still steadfast
still unchangeable
still as night
at the break of day
with eggs breaking
with sugar shaking
how can you be hungry
for lovemaking
it’s too early, too new
too much, too fast,
and too soon — yet,
I am still happy,
still over the moon
still laughing along
with the little dog,
at seeing such sport
as the dish carried
off by her spoon.

When the blazing sun is gone
When he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are.

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.

One-Track Mind

Thinking about how
sex is different, much more
different, now than it was then;
not materially — the strings still
bray, their ancient tongues still
flick the same — but structurally.

Thinking about how
to imagine being fucked from
behind, without gagging on a
principle: all sex is violence
except the kind that is saved
by a word; Mississippi means
“This doesn’t feel good to me.”

Thinking about how
this doesn’t feel good to me;
the mattress has a zipper that
rubs wrongly, reminding me
of a mouth too familiar that
is dry and uncertainly mine.

Thinking about how
often is not often enough
for someone* to masturbate
when someone is *a female.

Thinking about how
being female is a diagnosis
for dysfunction; how I come
and come and come to accept
that prescription for Prozac
in place of understanding.

Thinking about how
the whole is greater than the sum
of its parts, i.e., ❤ = you + me
or 1 + 1 = 3; how there’s no proof
that when two losers fall in love
they’ve the will to beat anything.

Thinking about how
you beat me once, and again,
not materially — but an injury
does not have to be physical
to get us thinking about how
the body works or does not.

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.

Effort at Speech Between Two People


: Let us begin with imperatives, where demands are apt to be concrete.
: Be happy. Enjoy your day. Set an intention. Breathe.
: Please, do not reach too far for me.
: Like the sunflower toward its Sun, I bend—
: In through the nose, out through the mouth.
: —counting the steps of your modest music.
: Seven to make a sale, three to climb a ladder, one to hold the moon.
How many points of contact does it take to stir the heart?
: We looked for a spoon, and finding none, gave ourselves permission to sip from the bowl.
: I remember it differently.
: In a land flowing with milk and honey, the Terms & Conditions must be wide and deep.
: From now, love takes the intransitive form.
There are no subject/objects, no Is acting upon yous.
What is important is to love.
: I accept these.
: You will be the writer, and I, the comic relief.
: Become become what is what will become
somewhere somewhat somehow become
some become some be be be!
: Listen : peace-becoming-turmoil-becoming- peace-becoming-turmoil
again and
again, in the same way; Forever.
: The future’s present sounds objectively good.
: Always trust the eyes and not the tongue. Look : [                           ]
: Speak to me. Grow to know me. Take my hand. Know that it’s OK
to fall.
: Let us end with imperatives, where demands are apt to be concrete.

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.

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.

A Love Poem

Reading her poetry stirred me up:                                                                                                   eye of newt, wing of dove — whatever.                                                                                           It did not matter. I would have fallen                                                                                               in love all the same.                                                                                                                               Yet, modest, she remained.                                                                                                                 She said: “In your presence, I can never                                                                               remember what to do with my letters;                                                                                           I connect consonant to vowel and                                                                                           vowel to consonant, but what comes out                                                                                   is not a language that I can recognize.                                                                                       Emily colored in her lips                                                                                                       with pencil-crayons, but always kept                                                                                           inside the lines; she was a “sometimes red,                                                                         sometimes deep magenta” kind of girl.                                                                                   She wore collared dresses and thimbles                                                                                   on her thumbs, with flushed cheeks that                                                                            seemed to say: “I know more of hugging                                                                               and kissing than I care to admit.”                                                                                                In her embrace, I was enveloped with                                                                                        the strength of a nightcap (fit snugly to                                                                                  my crown) and could never remember                                                                                    what to do with my Body.