Welcome, web-surfers. Today is the first day of your journey into my teenage archives. The poems are in chronological order. If you read them chronologically (starting here), you will see my progression as a poet, and you may also get some of the subtle cross-references that are imbedded in my work. This is not everything - some things are for me alone, while others went straight to the recycling - but it is, I'm sure, enough.

I hope you enjoy it. Laugh with me, cry with me, be as deeply embarrassed as I sometimes am, but don't tell me you haven't been there, too.

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“I should advise you to put it all down as beautifully as you can — in some beautifully bound book,” Jung instructed. “It will seem as if you were making the visions banal — but then you need to do that — then you are freed from the power of them. . . . Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your church — your cathedral — the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them — then you will lose your soul — for in that book is your soul.”

- New York Times, "The Holy Grail of the Unconscious", 9/16/09


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Photos at the end of the decade


So this is it

It ends with the last poem. Words continue, but they speak of someone new - no longer the poet. With a new voice, the aspiring artist has entered her twenties. She now plays house and pretends to be a woman - until, at last, it appears she is. . .

1987 marks the year I found my people, my family of choice, my tribe. I awkwardly dragged myself onto a path that would lead me forward. There was no noble reformation. I still made a lot of the same questionable choices as in years past: falling for people who would never love me, loving people who were unavailable, swearing allegiances to dead ends and impossible dreams, and then breaking the tension flippantly with easy lovers. Even as I watched those around me deadened and stupefied under the influence of the substances we abused, I was confident that my lifestyle presented no risk to me.

But I also got a little perspective in '87, and probably just in time. In the spring, one of my closest friends entered detox. What for? I literally did not believe in alcoholism before then, so it gave me a lot to think about. Later that year, I found myself in Cicero, Illinois, living with my boyfriend in a transient hotel owned by his father. The glory days of the gangsters were long past by then, leaving only the hookers, drug addicts, down-on-their luck schemers and old gamblers who spent their cash playing the horses and paid for their rooms with food stamps. I couldn't walk outside the building at night, for fear of being mistaken as a prostitute. I met a man there who had never traveled 6 miles east to the lakefront, and another who told me, "If you're going to marry a guy, make sure he has all his teeth." For someone as worldly as I tried to be, I was clearly out of my element.

I was nothing but a princess to the tenants there. And frankly, I was glad. That kind of tough life was not for me. I was a tourist in a place that never saw any visitors. I felt guilty to be able to walk away so easily - in some ways, I was more transient than anyone else there - but it was only my sense of adventure that brought me there in the first place. My stubborn self-preservation, on the other hand, readily convinced me to move on. In my home town, I had been a wild fish in a very tame pond. Chicago opened me up to the great river of life, and I was not always big enough to swim there.

Cicero was only a stop in my transition to Chicago. In the fall of 1987, at 19, I finally broke up with the boyfriend who I'd been in and out of love with for two years, moved to a neighborhood on the north side, and returned to college. Art school, this time. Everything on the class schedule was something I loved - writing, film, dance, and theater. The halls were filled with people like me: artists and searchers, some of them in trench coats with cigarettes and bottle-dyed hair, and some fresh from the suburbs, with their oxford shirts and innocent curiosity. And all there to study art. Why??? I didn't know. Maybe because for us, there really was no other way to get through college - or life, for that matter - except by alternate means. All I knew was, it made me feel less crazy to be with them. As I said, they were, and still are, my family of choice.

* * * * *

This is the best place to stop, I think. Everything that came after - the love and marriage, careers and lessons learned - it is just a human life, and it is a story that is still writing itself. I am grateful for it all, but I will leave it respectfully alone, for now. The teen poet is gone, now. Long gone. But she left her poems to turn you on. . .


To My Rock

It was so silent.
It was so silent, I heard
the cars moving along
the street
two stories below you
over the phone.
It was so still,
I imagined
the drip in the sink in
my kitchen
echoing -
through the wires.

I have not had a solid
night's sleep since you
sank to that place I
could not reach.

It used to be all jazz
in that red light.
The masked woman from
Venice, hovering above us,
gave us invitations to festivity -
night light, secluded sensuality;
strong hands and fingernails.
I knew that woman could do
anything she pleased, we were sure
she could climb walls
and speak of the unknown
we knew --

One night, in my dreams,
she turned her head to face me,
she was going to speak --

I have been familiar with
the agonies of the mattress,
it was breakfast in bed
three days each week --
I have fought those needles at
my fingertips;
and welcomed them;
and nourished them.
There are leftovers in my freezer.

What I think you think
is not what you think,
you react to what you
think I think

I had an idea, once,
that was healthy and pure
I mothered a cactus to full bloom --
five wide petals that felt like skin
and looked like sea anemone;
wilted, on the floor,
they formed a stray banana peel,
peach-soft on the backsides
like my child's skin.
I have sinned
by forgetting my child's name
her growth is stunted
without identity.

I thought you knew
the true values of the moon
you say you do (you do! you do!)
sometimes it's undeniably
there in your eyes
then you turn full around,
aim your darts at my heart -
say I'm "idealistic" and
I lose.

Richard at work said
I should try three things:
1. get in good with your family
2. write you a poem
3. smile.

- April 18, 1988, A.D.

My Rock (explanation of title of last poem)

At the back corner
of the thrift store -
for only a dollar -
I spotted a real
live lunar sample -
a charming example of
the mooner stock.
I found it resting in
the water on a fish
tank floor, and swore
I wouldn't be complete
without a lunar rock.

And so I, barely able
(with the fish tank and its table),
carried home this little stone
and placed it safely upon
the empty half of my bed
and since then -

I have watched as the little
fish have swum in and through
and around him
I have marveled -
he doesn't glow
he doesn't grow
but oh, I love him so. . .

- April 18, 1988, A.D.