Don’t sing love songs, you’ll wake my mother
She’s sleeping here right by my side
And in her right hand a silver dagger
She says that I can’t be your bride
(folk song adapted by Joan Baez)
In the dream I had last night I thought they stopped making pencils.
Maybe I don’t know how to talk during the day. I have been spending every morning in the garden listening to Martin Luther King and thinking how even if you get into Harvard and Dartmouth, some people get to win the Nobel Prize and some have to keep on working the railroad. And how Alice in Wonderland sounds nice but also like a story about a girl who takes mushrooms with her rich New York friends and forgets for three years that the next fifty they will wake up, have a cup of coffee—or, after enlightenment, decaf tea—and go in to a white room to fill glasses with water only to spill it on the ground.
In the dream two nights ago, I learned from an instruction manual how to make a steel cross to cover my body. That day, I thought I saw you in a pink t-shirt outside of CVS and I thought I got that old feeling or maybe I just got scared or maybe I just remembered there’s a dark purple wound like cancer inside mother, sister, inside you too
But you don’t know that because you still think I’m Eve in the garden or Mary with milk in my Breasts and you haven’t figured out that I’m Athena too.
Someday I am going to tell my therapist to stop telling me to breathe slow and I’m going to:
Scream like Mimi and I’m going to say the whole story but I will know that I do not really have a story, or rather that I’m telling the same story that the girl with greasy hair who sat next to me in a Catholic Church somewhere in Panama City and then again in Leon and told me it does not matter if God exists we have to keep on praying because her Grandmother tried to run away from a man like you and he killed her and somewhere in my hometown in Tennessee someone’s mother is telling her daughter that she doesn’t have the strength to hold the door open for herself and somewhere at Cornell or Swarthmore or Williams a Professor is telling her student that the lesbian reading of the novel is an over-simplification.
This whole time I have been dying to kiss my best friend again, but I know we never will, because a woman’s life begins the first time she kisses a man and means it or at least that’s what F. Scott Fitzgerald told me when I turned fifteen in Charleston, South Carolina.
When I was a little girl, I had a china doll in a white lace dress, a white lace dress like the one I bought last spring that my brother ruined when he told me it made me look like a dead baby and I named the doll Caroline, she had jet black hair, and I didn’t like dolls very much as a little girl, but I did like Caroline so I dragged her from east coast to west coast to east coast again and she’s probably in our basement now, in a box, and I’ll always wonder if she is broken or not, and maybe the man in my contemplative studies class who kept saying Daoism made no sense due to the bullshit about the unexamined life, maybe he’s wondering too.
The other day I googled the name Caroline and I got the answer I needed and I almost called you to tell you that I’ll burn the bridge when I come to it, and I put on my fancy shoes, which I knew would make you laugh, but I knew you wouldn’t pick up the phone and I thought about my yellow roses and how I sent you one every week for a while, but then I realized they were going in the wrong
Direction and I think in the future I’d like to maybe keep the yellow roses to myself
Or maybe I’ll send one to my friends:
One for an environmental scientist in San Francisco, the one who slept with me in the same bed without ever touching, and who loaned me a pencil with an eraser,
And one for the engineer in Los Angeles who got the fever this fall.