PROJECTED VIEW OF 2000
I will be an old woman in a red cotton dress riding a bicycle.
Behind me I will tie two wicker baskets filled with tulips,
ducks and quick dogs, a small garden quacking and panting
I will wear rouge made of cherries on my cheeks and a yellow
sunflower on a garter snake chain around my neck.
I will eat seeds and peach pits and celery hearts and drink
elderberry wine in stables full of straw and cobwebs.
I will scratch the cow’s back and the horse’s ear and sing
off-key to them, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” and “Mint Julep.”
I will carry a pearl-handled revolver in my cardigan sweater
pocket, loaded with sunflower seeds.
I will tell more huge purple lies than thin white truths, so
people who have small eyes will open them wider.
I will campaign for the man who has the darkest and softest
beard for president, or else I will marry him.
I will grow as many wrinkles on my body as I possibly can,
and I will throw my two floppy wrinkled breasts over one
shoulder when I play basketball.
I will live in a house made of stained-glass church windows.
I will put oysters and amber spiked bon-bons in small goblets
on the cemetery gravestones.
I will pick my nose in company, and I will play the fiddle.
When I die, the gnome and the elf from Norway will make me
into small leather shoes and little leather aprons for the
children of a nearby mushroom dealer.
WHY I HATE (AND WONDER ABOUT) THESE POETRY READINGS
One time at my poetry reading in Mission, South Dakota,
a very angular blond person with a neck brace holding up his chin
fell on the floor laughing hard during one of my more serious
During my reading in Palo Alto, California, a man named Elroy,
who sat in the back row, decided I was basically a man instead
of a woman. Afterwards he took me out for a drink at the
Black Spider Bar. I was lighting a candle with a match when
he noticed I was a woman, twice blessed, and he tossed his drink
against the velvet wall, jumped into his Volkswagen, and buzzed
The day after I gave a poetry reading at Boulder, Colorado, a man
wearing a raincoat came to my front door holding a cake of soap
and a blue towel. He asked if he could use my shower.
“What?” I said.
“I heard you mention you had one,” he said.
At a reading in Beaver Creek, Minnesota, a 98 year old lady
named Adeline Jenny waved at me from the front row the whole
time. When I finished she rolled her wheelchair over, gave me
a yeasty kiss, and said, “Come and visit me sometime! Now I’ve
got glasses my brains are brand new.” And she added, beaming
and patting my hand, “I couldn’t hear a word you said up there.”
After a reading at an Indian boarding school in South Dakota,
I ate greasy bologna, lettuce with milk-dressing, and pulpy
white bread in a dungeon lunchroom with three kids on detention.
One kid told me he was partly bald on top because the principal
kept pulling the hairs out of his head one by one. He hated
poems, he told me. They reminded him of mouse squeaks.
Another time a freckled girl wearing an evening gown with
sweat moons under the armpits told me my poems made her realize
her deep hatred for her husband, the doctor. She said she was
dying for me to help her get rid of him so she could become a
After reading love poems at the MacDowell Colony in August, I
heard a knock on my door in the black night. A man with a
blackberry in his mouth opened the door and beckoned for me to
kiss him. When I didn’t, he threw some ferns on my piano and left.
There are more reasons why I wonder about poetry readings:
In San Francisco I read for Educational Television, and when
they showed the program, my head was on from right to left
instead of left to right. I was beside myself because I looked
older and more foolish than I remembered.
From the tape of a radio performance in Los Gatos, California,
they removed my voice and substituted a new born baby warbling
In Ithaca, New York, a man who was too handsome sat during my
entire hour performance eyeing a girl across the aisle, making
pear-shaped gestures toward her with his left hand. He had huge
dimples in his brown cheeks and I could see my poems dripping
word by word into them.
Also in Ithaca a lady in the front row yawned ten times and
sighed twice as loud as a hog. She looked at her watch six
times, fingered her big toe through the hole in her moccasin,
chewed gum, and glared at me.
So who am I
that I should keep you
from your breathing,
and your sizzling bacon
and ask you to listen to my poems?
I’m too sinewy.
I fall down.
I talk out of my bellybutton from under my hat.
The tongue curl of my heart unwinds and flaps and flaps and flaps.
I suggest you go get a drink
or a cup of coffee.
I can’t bear your attention.
I am askew on this perch.
Go talk to yourself in your natural voice.