‘Take what you’re given and be grateful,’
small town Miss America
with vases full of flowers and insincere kindness
spoken from the dry-cleaner and banker
who recognized her bearing
and dripped hunger.
Those words were easy
house built around
gifts from men, married or not.
She tucked away
moving through the day,
dodging words and eyes
building castles of garbage
in unfinished basements
that carried half her genes
but none of her natural entitlements.
Words stick, like sickly yellow
fly-paper hanging in the barn door.
You’re not wearing that, are you?
men don’t like smart girls.
maybe if you smiled, stood up straight,
combed your hair, ironed your shirt– if you were different.
Maybe you’ll find the right kind of boy, someday?
The right kind of boy was the goal.
It would have to be a boy selfish for
take what you get grateful
the kind of boy
to trade beauty
the kind of boy who would
build his separate life,
on the rounded shoulders of a plain girl
who was trained to hide thoughts and swallow dreams
through insincere smiles from an ironing board.
A smudge who planned and sometimes paid
for separate vacations in quiet resignation.
fly-paper sticky grateful
for a house without flowers
is a hard word to swallow
with a few huge gulps of wine it goes down,
but only on days when castles
are built in imaginary places
while I whisper real hopes to the dogs.