Bio Note: I am one of those poets who much enjoys rhyming and metering (is “metering" a word? Probably not)— mostly because doing so will often cause me to include a few maneuvers that I otherwise would never have thought of, like slant-rhyming “rack of lamb” with “ad nauseam.” This particular poem is a crown of seven linked sonnets, originally published in Dogwood poetry journal.
Notes from the Good-Girl Chronicles, 1963
I. Reminiscences of a Fly-Girl When the friendly skies were full of virgins, I was one of them—naive, addled, benighted as a parakeet emerging from its covered cage. I’d been re-modeled: my college pleats and plaids had been replaced by a mock-military fitted suit and soldier-cap—utterly chaste, yet so erotic, so forbidden-fruit, I was the concubine inside the head of every traveling salesman on the plane. He’d have me stripped and bouncing into bed with him, bearing my bottles of champagne with giggles and conspiratorial wink— all this before I’d poured a single drink. II. Porter Powell’s Wife All this, before I’d even poured his drink: the swift removal of his coat, a match to light his cigarette; a moist, pale pink lipsticky kiss; one moment more to fetch the Wall Street Journal. Then his Crown Royal (rocks, splash, twist), a rack of lamb, his monologue du jour (the putting down of one more office coup) ad nauseam while I provide encouraging remarks, followed by my mentioning the bank and how they called today about some checks that didn’t clear. I watch his eyes go blank. He drops his fork, rises from his place and slaps me, hard, three times across the face. III. Celebrity’s Mother I’ve slapped myself three times across the face, so I know it’s not a dream, I swear— my babygirl has really won first place in the beauty pageant at State Fair. Look how she slinks on those high heels, cranks her little hips just like a pro down that runway—honey, she’s on wheels, she’s headed for the Johnny Carson show. Come on, sweetheart, talk a little louder, bat those lashes, lick your lips a lot; make your poor old mama even prouder— grab for what your mama never got. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Maidenform! Just watch my baby take the world by storm. IV. Sixteen I didn’t want to take the world by storm— just hoped to be a wife and mom someday, but I’ve blown it all to kingdom come because this boy and I went all the way. I can’t imagine what got into me (except for him, of course) because I’m smart, I know how boys will hold you close and cry and make up stories that you take to heart before they drop you like a shoe—and smirk at you for buying into all their shit. I guess I’m just another dirty joke, a stupid nympho they can laugh about. I never was a bargain anyhow, but nobody would ever want me now. V. George and Vera Carter’s Wonderful Daughter Nobody will ever want me more than my sullen, shrinking parents do; they think the very fact that I was born proves I owe them both a thing or two. So I’ve become the daughter that they crave— a loyal and obedient retainer who brings them what they need to stay alive and well—from laxatives to Sunday dinner. I listen to them re-arrange the past to suit themselves (their favorite diversion) and see to it they fall asleep at last, allowing me an evening for submersion in that alarming book I bought last week: something called The Feminine Mystique. VI. The Block-Watcher You could call it a feminine mistake, that thing my neighbor did—her moving out like that. At night! She didn’t even take her clothes; just her hat and overcoat, some books, and boom!—she’s out the door. Just drove away without a word to Bob— because she knew he meant it when he swore that he would never let her get a job. I guess she thinks her fancy education entitles her to some sort of “career”, like that bunch from Women’s Liberation who bellyache and burn their underwear. But if you ask me, she’s acting like a brat, throwing away her happiness like that. VII. Mrs. McKinney Looks Back I’ve thrown away my happiness, like that old crone in the fairy tale. I’m frail and shriveled now—and haunted by the thought of what I might have been, had I been male: I’d probably have taken center stage in some exciting, world-altering dance. But it’s been such a stupefying age for women. No one cared whether we flounced or crawled through all the tragicomic phases of our lives— we nearly always played our grand theatricals to empty houses. But I can’t blame the men. They understood the world was theirs, with all of its diversions— just look: the skies are filled with friendly virgins!
Originally published in Dogwood journal.
©2021 Marilyn Taylor
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