Monthly Archives: May 2006

estrogized (a waiter poem)

larry’s got fourteen women
at two of his tables
and everyone knows
women are terrible tippers
we all feel sorry for him
i tell him
to use his male charms
and he says

i can’t charm them
they’re all dried up
they’ve got husbands
and children at home

i tell him
women are never so dried up
that they can’t be charmed

i’ve been reading about menopause
about the estrogen
getting turned off
like some unused faucet
about vaginas drying up
like unwanted avocados
painful intercourse
and i think i’d rather
go against god’s plan
take some little blue estrogen pills
and get breast cancer
than turn into a thing
with tits and a moustache
bleeding from a visiting penis

larry complains:

all i hear is
“sir sir
will you get me some honey
for my biscuits
could i have more dressing
siiir siiiiir”

they’ve been there for hours
we feel sorry for him
but we’re glad it’s him
and not us

to tell you the truth
i don’t think larry could charm
not even his mother
he’s short and stubby
like a pencil gnawed at both ends
i wonder why they hired him
and i worry about him
housesitting my home
this december
i worry that my female cat
will hide or run away
for the two weeks he’s there

they’ve been here all night
and now one of larry’s women
calls me over
i bend down close to her
an african american woman
in the middle of her life
she is gracious
as a stranger
inviting me
into her home

she tells me they’re ready
for the check

when they leave
they tip larry well

i think it’s larry
who’s all dried up
i don’t think
he has enough

wendy shaffer

trading places

now that i’m almost 40
i don’t mind
if you notice me
riding my bicycle
i don’t mind your voice
pig-missiled across the road
like a football
at my back
because even if i can’t throw
like a man
i can burp as good as any
and spit clear long shots
my opinion in your face
and when i see
some young beefcake
strutting across my life
i know how to make him feel
my presence
the presence of my sex
i know how
to make him feel
his youth

so when my therapist suggests
that it’s possible
that i identify
with the male sex
in order to avoid feeling
the way i felt
when i was thirteen
walking head down and helpless
past construction workers
when she suggests
that a person might prefer feeling
powerful to powerless
i have to admit
some truth
i have to admit
it’s uncomfortable
finally feelng
like a woman
i have to admit
i’m angry

go ahead
call me
i’m only twice your age
and that old fear is just a thrill
running up the backs
of my legs
flying off loose in my hair
(you can’t see my wrinkles)
i’m smiling
all your young sweatglow muscle
piece of cake
in my imagination

wendy shaffer


They all had to have the keys in them.
We couldn’t take them without the keys.

I always said I stole 13 cars
when I was 13
But I recently counted backwards
turns out I was 14
which means I was one less
year innocent, one less year
having an excuse

I rolled the first one

First one was a little
Simca with a cotton top
I’d stolen from a church parking lot

We had a pregnant
chihuahua in the back seat
I was going too fast
I lost control and
was heading for the Spokane River
so I jerked the wheel
the golf course
and rolled it upsidedown
its cloth top —
I was so tall my head touched the top —
and nobody was hurt
we just left the car there
had torn a good divet in the golf course
left it there
and walked home

Two weeks later
the chihuahua gave birth successfully


One car was in this
open garage attached to a ranch house
and the owner was sitting in front of
the picture window, watching TV
so my friend got behind the wheel,
got it in neutral
and I pushed it down the driveway
and somehow the guy noticed

came out started yelling at us

so I hop in the back seat
the guy goes back inside

my partner can’t get the car started

the guy comes back out with a rifle
and starts shooting at his own car
which really livens things up

I jump up and down in the back seat
telling him to Get going!
he’s trying to get it started
and the guy’s still shooting at us
finally gets it started
and we TAKE OFF

and after everything calms down —
we’re away —
I realize there’s dozens of packages
of breakfast rolls
in the back seat

so I eat the icing off all of them
I mean if I’m taking the car
I might as well eat all the icing, right?

And the guy was shooting at his
own fucking car

Much later, after we were caught
and the cops were talking to us
they said it looked like a pig
had been back there

So that’s that


One car was like a 57 Chevy station wagon
and I actually got it up to 120 miles an hour —
this was like in 1960 —

and very early in the morning
I’m driving the car in what
turns out to be a military base

so I’m on this military base
and the MPs stop me —
in the stolen car —

I’m 14 years old
and they’re asking for a driver’s license
and the second MP says,
What’s a rifle doing in the back seat?
and I say, Shit! That’s Dad’s!
He’s going hunting this morning!
I’ve GOT to get the car back!
and they let me go.


The other one,
I don’t remember what type of car it was
I stole it
I was by myself
and I had a bunch of stolen
shoplifted 45’s in it
and for some reason I decided I wanted to see
what wine tasted like

so I went into the grocery store
and shoplifted a half-gallon of red wine —
14 years old of course —
I got caught
They called my father
the manager and my father saw how scared
I was
and they all decided that my father
would take me home and take
care of me

they didn’t realize I was scared
because I had a stolen car outside
with stolen 45’s and I was afraid
they’d find out


I served 9 days in
juvenile detention
read a lot of John Carter’s
Mars science fiction books
The judge decided, since
I was getting A’s and B’s and
my parents love me and I
loved my parents that it
had to be the older kid’s fault —
he was 17 —
so they made him join the Army
and they gave me a year probation

but the sad part of all this
I was really afraid of what my father
was going to do to me
and he said to me, I could do this or that
but I’m going to trust you

And that was almost the
worst punishment

I don’t remember any
of the other cars

Steven B. & Kathy Ireland Smith collaboration

absurd dream of love

the way we lay
on the twin futon
in the heat sweat
rolling down your cavernous
starved ribs
mixing salt along my pouches of fat
in so small a space
wearing nothing but briefs

the way you wouldn’t let me
touch your penis
you wouldn’t touch me
even though we were so close
that our salt water
became the same

the way i lay
there in that excited heat
until morning came in a green mist

then we drove across the city
the sleeping ghetto bathed in grit
the repeating skyline of our crossed dreams
lit up in the smog of the rising sun
the heat beginning again
the heat beginning again
and no relief

wendy shaffer

kent state, may 4, 2001

it was a soft green grass time born of the great war
where our fathers were heroes who never talked
about the kamakazes that fell from the sky

it was a world of color born from an age of black and white
a whole generation of moms trying out hamburger helpers,
more time for mccall’s, ladies home journal, the saturday evening
post more time unfulfilled and kneaded into fresh dissatisfaction
for the dinner table

we walked easily across the quad carrying our books and believing
in a fatherknowsbest world our leaveittobeaver days to day
stunned by the images on tv where monks doused in gasoline lit
a match to our lives and the sunday school picture perfect
two dimensional black and white world burned phosphorescent
orange in our brains
across the storefronts burning the glass
blown out of the frames we lived inside

we had everything we needed and knew nothing
more than george’s cherry tree or honest abe’s long walk
to school through piles of snow turning to bullshit
faster than we could defoliate villages

we walked easily across the quad
where a college education followed naturally as lunch
followed breakfast followed a fluffy pillow full of dreams
stuffed with old prom dress promises
when the rocks were thrown and the bullets bit back
and we carried our angry innocence
like an eagle’s feather into this one hundred percent
natural ingredient world where the burnt bones
of four little brown girls in a bombed out church
are forgotten
where the drumming of hundreds of thousands
of bloodrighteous voices pulsing with one protest
is forgotten
where jackson state and kent state are pressed like fall
leaves losing color into the skewed history book of the white man
it’s forgotten

it’s may fourth and the lights are flashing the night blue
with police blocking the roads
twenty-one years after the kent state shootings
those pesky frat boys are drinking too much again
they’re setting cars on fire
they’re rolling them over

but there’s no need to call out the guard
it’s nothing that a little mace and rubber bullets
can’t cure

wendy shaffer