Day of Rage,
There’s nothing a woman can do
with her anger that won’t lead to
The Humiliation Thing:
This is a me poem about humiliation.
The poem yields fresh depictions of fear and grief.
As a bladder is a bag,
the poem is also a bag,
a receptacle in which you put what you don’t want
and still you have to carry it.
Look at your hands:
there are only two options:
a punch or a slap.
I was lucky: I was only on the SSRI for a year.
I only had electric needle headaches
for six months after I stopped.
Doctor, you said that withdrawal
was “likely” causing them.
A brain cancer unlikely.
I was lucky: I had a job that paid me
1/3 of what I was worth.
I was lucky: I was made in an unhappy family
and I took my rage and made a sometimes unhappy family
in a house, on a street, with schools
and a store.
Well it’s the 21st century.
and will not be transformed.
Humiliation is not butchery.
So things could be much much worse.
Humiliation is too sick for blame,
but everybody hates mom, let’s blame her,
she’s groaning with exhaustion,
a hollow statue
upended, chunks of plaster missing,
and ants crawling through on trails of sand.
The pills were a spectacular success, Doctor:
Subject no longer sobs every day
and cannot have an orgasm.
O give me the universals, I deserve them
in their blank plenitude
that distracts and distracts.
Give me tasty meals too,
I stalk them in my animality.
While the dal was cooking
I worked the puzzle:
Military morale booster, three letters: WAR.
I stepped over my non-mentor
laid out on the sidewalk
like a dropped slice of pizza.
He liked me fine until I was pregnant.
He liked me fine until I was ambitious
in a way that ignored him.
He liked me fine until I disagreed with him
about the color of my eyes.
He liked me fine until my poems got confessional,
until I “missed”
his tight jeans references.
Oops, I’d sat on the Bad Girl Cushion.
Is there no other way
to be realized?
After the poison, each time,
itch and scab over, itch and scab over.
But you write such lively poems!
But you take such joy in artmaking laughing fucking!
Don’t pull me down, Grammar.
Divide me forever
from the buzzing coherence
our era of lavish competence
Declaration on a Sunday:
I’ll fuck you when you’re 80
makes me whole.
Doctor, tell me what’s wrong
and how to fix it.
don’t come at me with your filth-language.
You have seen to the very weakest part of me.
By this I mean
by which I mean
this sad sad rag of rage.
Oh yes I worship life
in its smallest circumferences, flesh, fiber,
buzz, tinkle, whoosh. Even pizza!
What I mean is that the circumferences
allow little air so that
the fragrances are obstructed and
the light distorting and
that I was doomed tragedically
unlike everyone else,
doomed in a special way,
I decided to do it, do a whole
glowing nubile half-century,
Red-orange gloss and evasions made of me
from my true land.
A very visible humiliation.
Victim of failed surgery —
surgery that involved
the ripping of hymens,
the flattening of knees,
the tamping down of cheer in the eyes,
the razing of the Grand Experiment
Grammar, I am told that word order
and the difference between lie and lay
are women’s problems,
for language is one-use and evanescent
and nimblest when tapped
for the purposes of commerce
Doctor, I am told that the goal of a mommy makeover
is to restore the shape and appearance
of a woman’s body after childbearing.
There are many areas of the body that can be addressed,
most commonly the breasts, abdomen,
waist, genitalia and buttocks.
And although I know that time will bear me
out, it won’t bear me as a river would,
from a place of rush to a place of rest.
That’s the difference between idiom and water.
Humiliation is both,
how we jabber and thirst!
And if it is not yet clear,
this poem relates a woman’s experience
peacetime or wartime,
city or village,
the nominee or the woman
who wipes her tile floor
free of crud
In this way we are sisters
who do not love each other well enough
and who do not use language nimbly enough
nor rage with enough brawn.
Here we sit and stand and work
and by 10 p.m. we can’t think.
There is no sidewalk,
no dropped slice of pizza.
That was only a flaccid
and retires with distinction.
His work lives on and on.
Humiliation is endless,
and T.S. Eliot can just shut up.
We end on a photo of Kathleen Ossip,
in a gray tee-shirt
who has spent a lifetime
engaging deeply with this text.
Photograph of Kathleen Ossip courtesy of Kathleen Ossip.