Memorializing Mediocrity

School Years

I jumped through school hoops
better than all but two of my peers
and was happy to keep my mouth shut.

At college I outplayed most of my mates,
simply by following the directions, and
typing up the words that were wanted.

It was early success for a slow learner
unable to figure out the important stuff
until her life was at least half over.


Attachment Issues

Susans Story

has descended upon
Susan’s sunshine.

She shook off Daddy’s shackles
and has taken up with a gay man.
It sounds strange,
but when nobody’s wrong,
nothing is right,
and they make up the rules as they go.

Rules like:
1. Nothing bad ever happens
2. Love is all that matters
3. When you cry, do it loudly
4. Record every thought, move, and meal
5. Never hurt anyone’s feelings

Nonsensical to you and me perhaps,
but this isn’t about us.

Susan fears the responsibility that comes with freedom
and is desperate for more guidelines.
Five are not nearly enough,
but she strokes her long blonde braid
and comforts herself with the reminder that
she and her lover haven’t known each other long.

Besides, she’s very much aware of the problem
and is working to remedy it.
Little by little.
Baby steps will get her there.
Commercial breaks never go to waste;
every second is spent

If only the ideas would slow down so she could catch them.
They flit in and out of the light—
She has to be quick.
Almost got one—
No! It’s gone,
and her show is back on.

It’s all right, she tells herself.
In six more minutes.
OK, now. Go!
Closing her eyes usually helps.
A word,
three more.

She’ll corral them this time.
Being happy—she caught a glimpse of that phrase.
Smoking, public, soda—what does it all mean?
She tries to gather and sort.
Why can’t this be easier? she asks the mom on the screen.
Then a smile slowly erases that vertical line between her eyebrows.

Two days later, Susan is waiting to be buzzed through
the front door of Balsam Acres.
The small, frail body
taking up too little of the bed in room 149
surprises Susan.
Was she always so gaunt?

Soon enough, the vellum lids flutter open.
Susan smiles, and makes small talk,
but is careful to keep it short.
Then she clears her throat, gazes into the ice-blue eyes
and asks, How did Daddy write his rules, Mama?

Rules? the woman asks with surprising volume.
Rules? Why, he lived by only two,
and he sure as hell didn’t make ‘em up.

That can’t be right, Mama.
Nobody can live with only two rules.
The sock rule! Remember that one?
And, and, the going-out-with-friends rule, Mama.
What about those?

But Mama answers with only a snort
and turns her back on Susan again.