The more birthdays you have,
My dermatologist says, the more you’re going to see
The skin of me blooms like turning fruit.
I stand before him in my underwear,
Trying to keep the paper gown from falling off.
He lays another paper gown on the floor for me to stand on,
Chivalrous, I think, wakes up an old self
Who remembers the word special in reference to herself.
My other selves quickly tell her to go back to sleep
As he inspects my skin, dictating codes
To a young assistant who writes what he says in my chart.
He brings his little magnifying glass to the freckle above my left knee.
I tell him that’s always been there.
He interprets the freckle to the young assistant
In clinical language, what he finds doesn’t seem to concern him.
I’m given samples of a cream, told to avoid the sun.
Are you interested in our cosmetic services? No, I tell him.
In the bathroom, a poster asks,
“Are you a 1, a 2, or a 3?”
Near the 1, a woman’s face
One wrinkle between her eyes.
Beside the 2, two wrinkles.
The 3, three wrinkles.
In my car, listening to the news
I diagnose myself as a 5.
What lands between my eyes
Falls there like a boulder
Impacting once smooth water.
I Love You, Erin
sing the bottles at the grocery store.
They wink at me from their Christmas tree,
sets off a little whir in my brain that’s familiar
like recognizing a former lover,
but not remembering his name right away.
Between quittin’ time and dinner’s ready,
I find myself dumb
before the beer display.
It’s then I see Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg slowly rise up,
from beyond a mound of citrus. Behind the peach and orange rinds,
they reveal to me their droopy, love-filled eyes.
All I Want for Christmas plays.
Moving on, the Honey Baked Ham man offers me ham,
between his forefinger and thumb,
covered in a blue plastic glove.
But that Christmas-themed 6-pack of Newcastle in festive glass bottles
splits my second,
wants to overtake my basket,
is not Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg
exploring the possibilities of produce
beneath a halogen moon,
but my very own
liquid courage teacher,
salivates my orifices,
looms larger than interior voices,
promises the ahh … my kind wants, doesn’t want;
the wanting and not wanting collide in me like horror plot,
but no one at the grocery store crashes carts.
The bottles sing
I Love You, Erin
until I pass them by
and then they hiss at me
as if they were shaken and dropped.
Next aisle, cereal. I splay my chin with my fingers like Andy Warhol,
contemplating variations on high fructose corn syrup.
The second that split a few stanzas ago mends itself like mercury
and the check-out woman delivers her genuine self, straight-up.
I can tell she’s a good woman who doesn’t run away.
And the bagger, O glorious existence, the bagger! speaks to me in eloquent enjambment,
My sister, he begins, is that you in your holy state of attention
desiring more than this America in your shopping cart?
May I help you with your bags to your car?