Preston’s Pharmacy

A place I like to walk
is the aisles of the
specialty pharmacy
where they carry one of
seemingly everything
for any ailment or stage
of life
like breastfeeding supplies and
tiny vials of baby medicine
and one whole wall
filled with compression stockings
another lined with
wheelchairs, motorized recliners,
and furniture and accessories for your toileting ease
don’t forget
the aisle of tall candles
and boxed thank you cards
because you’re never too ill or incontinent
for elegance
or good manners.

The Avengers Get Their Nails Done

Before my second baby was born
I used to worry (a lot) about
having a boy
thinking, “what would I DO with a boy?”
as if he would turn out to be a different
species than me
rather than another gender
and that we would lack a
common language

Now he is almost six
and I understand that
what I was afraid of
was that he would be
a stereotype
of a boy
or that he would
(alarmingly)
be a clone
of boys I had known
who had scared me
or disgusted me
because of their
aggressiveness
or
crassness
or
insensitivity
which I wrongly
attributed
to testosterone
and the Y chromosome

My son loves to kiss me
and snuggle and
make art
together and
battle bad guys (not with me, because that’s not my thing)
and build Legos (sometimes with superheroes and bad guys
but sometimes not)
and watch the Great British Baking Show
and do martial arts
and play with his multitude of stuffed animals,
all of whom he has given names
and identities
(some straight, some gay, some trans)
and family relationships
(usually interspecies)

He likes to wear pink and purple (and sports shorts and Adidas)
I told him that I’m glad he knows
pink and purple are colors
for everyone
and not just for girls
He said unfortunately not everyone
at his school knows that
and not everyone at his school thinks boys
can wear nail polish
but he knows
how much fun it is
to get your nails done
and how cool it looks

I used to worry
that people would think
I was a boy
because my hair is short
because I mostly wear
t-shirts and jeans
In high school when I wore Doc Martens
I was told “those are men’s shoes.”
(Now I sometimes shop in the men’s department for my size 11 feet
and I receive many compliments on my brown leather wingtips)
In college when I asked the boys down the hall
to use the clipper to shave the back of my hair
I was told “that’s a lesbian haircut.”
and because I wore plaid flannel,
“you dress like a lesbian,”
(but seriously, it was the 90s)
A little girl once asked me, “are you a boy?”
I said no but she still said, “I think you’re a boy.”
When I wake up and stumble into the bathroom
in the middle of the night or
first thing in the morning
so many times I’ve looked in the mirror
and wondered if I looked that day like
Richard Simmons or Andy Gibb or Michael Moore
it’s always a weird male celebrity I see
I used to think that if I didn’t wear earrings
when I left the house
people would think I was a man
even though plenty of men
wear earrings when they leave the house
like my daughter’s 5th grade teacher
who was a middle-aged married father of two
who wore basketball shorts to teach and sported
a gold hoop in each ear

My son notices when I have new earrings
and is the first to compliment me
when I get my hair done
He often does not care if his clothes
are clashing colors
but sometimes he wants me to brush his hair
and help him choose the perfect outfit
for the occasion

My son recites the names of all the Avengers
(and their friends such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four)
and their unique capabilities
and asks me what powers I would like
and then endows me with them
and says,
“I love you with all my heart and all my dreams.”
and falls asleep with his forehead touching mine
and his arm around my neck









Front Porch

When I get a massage
I am polite
but quiet
because in the past
I have made the mistake
of being too friendly
and inquisitive
and hearing too much troubling
information about a person
who was supposed to be
helping me relax

Chida is my massage therapist now
She is usually polite and quiet too

Last week she was
bubbling over
with excitement
because she and her five-year-old
daughter are going back
to Thailand for a month

Chida said she has to go
so her whole family
can participate in the rituals
to say goodbye to her father
who died several months ago
but who neighbors say
they have seen
sitting on his front porch

Chida’s mother told her
“You have to come home
or your father’s spirit
will be stuck here.”

“Miss Betsy,” Chida said to me.
“Do you believe in ghosts?”


My Seventh Season

My main skill
on the soccer field
is getting in people’s way

Also I can cheer

I am not fast

No matter how many
games I play
or watch
I cannot see
what needs to happen
beyond my need to kick
the ball away from me
toward someone who will
know better than I do
what to do with it

Nothing that happens
on a field
or with a ball
or on a court
or in a pool
or on a track
or on a mat
comes easily to me

This is not to say I am weak
because I AM strong
I can be fierce
and determined
and endure
but it is
never
ever
easy

I watch my teammates
sprint toward the ball
maneuver around our opponents
boot the ball gloriously
through the air
with what seems
to me like
no effort at all

I hear them talk about the other team’s
offense and defense
and which players
are the ones
to watch
“All we need to do is…”
they explain
on the sidelines

but I don’t
really
understand

still I will jog onto the field
and see who I need to
get in the way of
when she has the ball
and maybe steal the ball
if i’m lucky
and pass it
and cheer loudly
for whoever
takes it down the field
to score

Out of Our Control

So much is out of our control
who moves in next door
who doesn’t clean up
after their dog
on the sidewalk
in front of
your house

When the bus finally arrives
Whether the check
is in the mail
How your boss
behaves
How anyone
behaves

Who lets you in when
you’re trying to
turn left out of your
neighborhood onto
Columbia Pike
Who stops when
you’re trying to
cross the street

Who is having a bad day
and takes it out
on you
who holds
the door open for you and
all the kids you’ve brought along
and smiles and doesn’t seem to mind
that they are oblivious to the fact of the door

How viruses mutate
whether the nurse assigned to your room
has ever taken care of a patient like you before
Whether the people in charge of your country
decide to start a war
against another country or
against you
Whether someone who looks like you–even a little bit
commits a crime
What DNA you inherit
What your mother did
or did not do while you were
becoming human
Whether she brought you
into the world with joy
or despair

Whether you get put in the class
of a kind kindergarten teacher
or one who should have
already retired or found
another steelier line of work

So much is out of our control
it is a miracle that we find
at the end of the day that
a single thing we set out to do
has been done

A testament
to our optimistic persistence
that we write out
yet another to do list
naively determined to try again
even though
so much is out of our control