The Red Queen Speaks

For those who arrange
am always suspect at dinner parties
and theatre outings and any
holiday event. Who is wise/brave/dull/
single/married/deaf/alive enough to sit
at either hand?
the random access lovers I might
run over/across/under, I am offered
more than my fair share of whispers & small talk
especially when I am amid a good laugh
or trying to get away without fanfare.
Despite any joy I might experience in my
big and little life,
the furies/spirits really share my pain when I take
the inevitable walk in the ditch which
occurs close to the same biorhythms as my hormones'
ebb and flow. Lips get pursed, the wise nods begin
and the heads bob
in synch
like a sea of Radio City Rockette dashboard dogs.
This is followed by the knowing looks and then someone
quotes the Beatles about love.
Feminist wisdom is demonized; yet, all the while,
there are anxious little hint droppings,
quick asides attached to
the possibility of a visit to
my solitary little house
to "get away some peace for a change." So,

to all the good souls who say I simply haven't met
the right man (as if
I haven't tried to find the corner I'm supposed
to be at,
with my skirt above my knee/thigh/head, when
the REALTHING comes driving/walking/flying by and
wants to whisk my perfect self to happily-ever-after), Listen Up Pilgrim:

I have journaled, published,
reflected, meditated,
railed, cried, stared
slept, avoided, indulged, and ignored.
I have traveled to important and
ridiculous places in my head and life,
delved into therapy
taken medication, vitamins and colonics.

I have cross-dressed and undressed.
I have dressed my age & someone else's.
I have talked with friends, enemies and strangers,
distinguished and overrated experts,
on planes, trains and busses,
in offices, ladies rooms, coffee shops, bars,
airport waiting rooms, and
chat rooms.

I have stalked second hand smoke,
gorged until sick,
starved into a swoon,
bulked up on water,
dried out from sugar.
I have covered up as if Bedouin,
worn a hair shirt,
walked naked on nails,
through fires, in frost and
baked until reptilian.
I have stayed alone,
mingled until my cheeks have screamed
from holding onto a smile I don't mean
for men who couldn't care whether I had it
or not.
I have become invisible
saved, and even

I have looked under
rocks, kilts, and door mats
for the keys to the kingdom.
I have hailed Mary, a taxi and
my accountant looking for
that counterpart who recognizes
a good lay of the land
when he sees it and keeps
bravery and mischief in his
back pockets, next to his jazz and
rock and roll.

I remain open for business
after, far too many quasi-lethal episodes of distracted driving,
and oft- interrupted prana and chi,
and revolving candlelight vigils,
and ceaseless prayers to god or whomever,
and years of looking at all this
in every different light,
Burger King and I think
I should have it my way, so please
hold the mustard, hold the ketchup,
and the key to my front door is in the
fake rock near the pelican. You don't need
me to take 5 with/for you.

I'm out with my kites, look up.



The Luckiest I've Ever Been is Now

I got out of my first marriage before too much damage could be done.
There are two giant, healthy Sycamores in our front yard
and we have a porch with big wide, strong rocking chairs.
Our dogs are housebroken.

We live walking distance from a library, a park with a dog run,
good pizza, great espresso and a movie theatre.

Three of my four sons are still alive, all are beautiful,
two play baseball and I happen to like watching baseball.
Two of them love to read; the third doesn't hate it.

I have a job I mostly love and my husband's favorite things
also include good movies, books, writing, kids, teaching and dogs.

My parents, married almost fifty years, still fish and sew
and read and live six hours away in the Adirondacks,
a great place to visit two or three times a year.

My boys love animals and trees and none of them are mean
and they all love to laugh and one of them can draw.

I don't fight with my ex even though he's only five minutes away
and I like the step mom and they love their step dad and they
seem to be pretty happy considering the last five years
or so when their dad and I were still together.

It's a perfect, cool day here at the retreat even though it's June in New Jersey.
I have coffee. Some of the tallest and most gorgeous cedars and pines
I've ever seen grow right outside these big old diamond paned windows.

Last night four deer came up close while we were writing
and they looked at us but they didn't run away, and later
it was cold and I needed the comforter when I slept.

I wrote six halfway decent first drafts and I will get home
in time for my middle son's baseball game.


Jackfruit? Jesus Christ, what the hell is that?
Oblong, green, firm, with bumps-no, spikes.
Can you rip it open or do you need a knife
to see pale flesh or something deeper, maybe
bleeding clots of seeds? Jackfruit. Just listen:
Jackfruit. It's not appealing, it's not for Jill.
It's a truck jacked up or a car jacked with a
gun unless there's Lojack, or a jackknifed
tractor trailer or that dude who's jacking off
or jacked and shirtless at the gym; not fruit.
I know jack shit but give me one, I'll try it.
I'll cut, I'll rip, I'll drip, I'll eat Jackfruit.


Look at Edward the groundhog
flattened across my driveway
munching on clover.

Look at the circular motion
of his jaw as it grinds.
Look at him look at me.

Look at the way he rolls
like a bag of water-
where are his legs?



Dial 9 for Housekeeping

Dried-up spring mountains,
canyon-gashed and desert,
red rocks, white tigers, blue men
and blackjack,
it's a laugh and gamble world
amid the dropped towels
and balled up sheets.
Overlooking the neon collision
from the 30th floor,
she rolls
the utility cart and hits
pay dirt.

Generation Why

My father made his living
teaching about the Revolution -
midnight rides, exuberant tea parties,
common sense.
A first generation American
his mother barely made it out.
The Lodz ghetto to Ellis Island -
that was no field trip -
his junior high school students
committed such acts
to memory,
kept their dates
lined up neatly
on their exams

and now the sons
of the friends we grew up with
are not going to grow up

brought home from the desert
on life support
so they can die with their families
around them
shrapnel for brains
behind unlined faces

the friends we grew up with
played kickball with, who got us high
and turned us on to music,
drove us in their cars
when they got their license,
stood up at our wedding -
their sons are not going
to grow old

the first soldier killed from this town
since the Vietnam War
thirty years earlier
broken glass
but no wedding
red stains
but no wine
we stand by them now

      Sari Grandstaff



Prostitute Promises

The day I stop refusing deals, the day
He comes to me to hold me in his arms
The day I bring him candy on a tray
O God! I shall also end using balms

It is day after tomorrow, he said
Did he lie to me, God, you must confess
Say, shall I sprinkle roses on our bed
Will he kiss my nose, my hair, tress by tress

I would remember my prayers to thee
As he dances before my eyes, o God
I know, too, my heart shall beat rapidly

I shall have a future; it's true, no fraud
For I have loved thee day by day for him
And for thee I shall kiss him limb by limb.

Sari Grandstaff's poetry is published or forthcoming in Nthposition, Modern Haiku, Red River Review, Home Planet News, MiPoesias, Modern English Tanka and elsewhere. Her essays appear in Mom Writers Literary Magazine and on several National Public Radio programs such as 51%, The Best of Our Knowledge, The Health Show and The Roundtable. She lives in the Catskill Mountains with her husband and their three children.

Dale M. Tushman's poetry comes to jerseyworks, without cover letter or bio, from Greenwich Village, USA.

Svea Barrett is an Allendale, NJ teacher and sometimes writer of poems. She writes, "I have been in a few good Jersey pubs--LIPS, The Paterson Literary Review, The Edison Review, and The Journal of NJ Poets, as well as a few non-Jersey mags. If this matters or is of any interest."

Erum Ahmed lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and has just informed us that "Prostitute Promises" has recently been selected for honorable mention in the Sonnet Writers First Annual Contest.

PS. jerseyworks' editor loves to read bios, for entertainment; they have zero bearing on whose work gets to share our pixels.

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