Not With a Bang But a Whisper



When my brain finished integrating last fall—last stage in healing the mental fractures that nearly killed me, after 25 years of misdiagnosed and untreated PTSD—I came back to myself less than two weeks after an illegitimate election placed an unstable and corrupt would-be dictator in line to be the next US president. In other words, I finally knew myself in the world just as the world I knew tilted on its axis and began slipping away.

The core challenge that posed has taunted me ever since: how do I normalize this overwhelming new sense of self I am experiencing, while at the same not normalizing this overwhelming new world, filled with political chaos targeting every social principle I believe in?

As a human being, feeling at home within my mind and body is everything. Is life itself.

As a citizen, feeling at home within this burgeoning autocracy would mean death.


Do you ever skip around when you are trying to broach a difficult topic? Sidle up beside your point, see if you can spot it in your peripheral vision without being seen in turn?

Oh, do not ask what is it.

I wouldn’t tell you yet anyhow. Instead, I’m going to share with you the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s early modernist poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

Continue reading “Not With a Bang But a Whisper”

when a body loves a body

There were protesters outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic again this week. And, also again, a group of women in bright pink escort vests arrayed quietly along the front of the building, a buffer to the hate and madness.

These protests have ebbed and waned over the 15-some years I have lived in Philly, but they are clearly on the rise again. When I first moved here from Texas, I remember being shocked to see Planned Parenthood locations advertising on local TV, out in the open and unafraid. It expanded my vision of what became possible when we who believe in equal bodily rights and the full social participation of women were not forced to accept shaming and violence as “normal” responses to our stance. As mere “business as usual.”

On Wednesday​, as I do every time, I crossed the street to thank the escorts for being there. We shook hands and chatted​ for a moment, as I told them how glad I was to see them and how much their service means to us in the community. (We ignored​ the row of dusty old men standing behind me, muttering imprecations related to dead babies and our clearly-frozen souls.) Since this was a weekday morning, the women were all older—retired, or of an age to be so.

A phalanx of grandmas, holding the line.

Window across the street from the clinic.

The Price [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *


The Price

Older than the ocean floor she slithers across,
the sea-witch rummages between her cartilaginous breasts
for the shell that stores the latest tongue
and voice in her collection.

Not the first fish I taught to waddle onto land,
she snorts to the anemones.
Not likely to be the last, neither—
and every damn one of ’em convinced
evolution’s just a party trick.
A ploy to meet cute boys.

She’d outdone herself on this one, too:
No talking. No singing. No dancing
without the girl feeling like there are razors
in her shoes.
Absolutely NO take-backs.

Settling her head into the wattles of her throat,
the sea-witch peers, sightless, into the cold ocean night.
Can’t nobody say as I didn’t warn her,
she harrumphs quietly, before pulling the tongue
from its shell and taking
a first bite.


END-NOTE: I have long thought of The Little Mermaid as one of the more cruel and telling fairy tales Patriarchy has gifted us with yet: a young girl gives up her ability to speak, and agrees to excruciating physical pain, simply as the price of seeking love? It ain’t no mere ensorcelling that nabs her voice, either. The sea-witch literally cuts her tongue out. And then our mermaid princess can’t even score the love she sought! Not only does she not get the “happily ever after” Disney grants its Ariel and her thrilling-as-wet-toast prince; in Hans Christian Andersen’s original, her “happy ending” consists of turning into a vacuous “Spirit of the Air” and finding herself tasked with blowing cooling breezes at humans for the next 300 years, in order to earn herself a soul.

(Maybe it’s just me, but by year 75, I figure I’ve turned my back on the whole “gonna get me a soul” dream and am just praying to be turned back into sea foam. Even the most self-abnegating emotional laborer’s gotta find three centuries a bit long, no?)

Anyhoo, that’s been my read on this little ditty about a fish and her prince since forever…until I recently came across a compellingly different take.

Continue reading “The Price [The villainess series]”

Beast [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *



I am the hero of your story. Not you.
Not ever you.

The headlines shoulda read Haggard crone strikes a blow for justice
(for truth in advertising, at the very least) —
yet still you carry on like the brute you always were.
Raging about the woman who dragged you down,
moping about the woman who’s ‘sposed to lift you up.

You brought this on yourself, remember?

At issue: could you redeem yourself.
Not: could you convince some daft slip of a girl
to enact redemption on your behalf (Stockholm syndrome
ain’t a recommended wooing technique,
case you ever wondered).

Next time I’ll skip the test.
Drown your furred, irredeemable ass in your sleep.
Burn your ballroom into ash.

Dance on your bones
the way heroes do.


EXTENDED END-NOTE: Fantastic yellow Disney dress aside, most modern treatments of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ —likely highly influenced by the 1991 animated film—that interpret the story as a romance bug me to my core. In the original French tale, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (and plenty problematic in its own right), the Beast treats Beauty with utmost respect and generosity from the outset. He will be her servant, the Beast tells her, when she arrives; she is now mistress of his house.

Continue reading “Beast [The villainess series]”

Alice and the Wonderful, Delightful, No Bad, Very Good Day

Because sometimes you just gotta say “fcuk it” to the writing and bake a birthday cake for a horse instead.

annie cake_apr17
Why yes, since you mention it, that IS a 4-layer coffee-chocolate cake with lemon curd filling and a cardamom buttercream frosting! Good call. Your eye for detail is impressive.

And what about you? Tell me something good that’s happening in your world right now.

Or, equally delightful, tell me something absurd…

* * *

[Recipe adapted (only very slightly!) from this original.]

Green [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *



I greet the day with a stretch and a yawn.
Half a continent away
a house tears off its foundation in a cyclone.

I trot down the stairs in my nightshirt.
The news reports earthquakes
stretching to both poles.

I’ve heard people claim I shrunk them small with a spell.
That I fly on a broomstick surrounded by an army
of winged monkeys.

Lies all, but I do not blame them.
My upbringing did not prepare me either for the sight of a woman
flying, her wings as terrifying and tender as any man’s.

They say I am the color of envy.
I say it goes the other way round.


Speaking of the Green One, are y’all familiar with Todrick Hall’s 2016 visual album Straight Outta Oz? Was recently introduced to it by a friend, and I am OBSESSED.

You can watch the whole thing here, but for a quick taste, here’s one of my favorite numbers:

Continue reading “Green [The villainess series]”