Tag Archives: sondra poems

What Sondra Said

I’ve been told my whole life
I was born to the throne.

Instructed toward ownership.
Forced to trust in my own authority,

however lightly I carried it,
however little I wanted it.

Grew to reject it,
to surrender my place,

or so I thought. Sondra,
though — Sondra tore

the veil when she said,
“I am a woman, born

and built for sedition,”
and instead of agreeing,

something moved in me
and behind it, I glimpsed fear

and resistance
and only behind that was the face

I knew was my own true face,
and it looked free,

and not at all like the one
I call my own.

Sondra Comes Clean

sondra brittle
lies intact 
on cotton batting
after her fall

sondra brittle
lies intact
recalling the feeling
of falling 

sondra batting away
the cotton from
her brittle lies 
is overwhelmed
seeing them
fall intact 
to the lawn

sondra cotton
lies to the lawn
with brittle tact
falls back on her 
failures and says
I fell into batty
it’s not what I wanted
but now I am 
swaddled in that




Sondra’s bubble burst slowly,
taking its time to tear open
and pour out all its air.

The exact moment
when it began is still unclear.

Her mother was sure
the first prick of the pin
came with the first puff
of a joint, at fifteen;
her sister thought
it was that man in college
who slept over for two weeks straight
and then never called again;
teachers remarked on
unfulfilled ambition;
bosses and
various coworkers
from each of her series of jobs
spoke of struggles to be
remotely employable.

Her father had his own ideas
as to what might have caused it
but moved across the country
to keep them
from coming out;

but it was Crazy Jim, who met her
in Spottswood Home
years after, when she was flattened
and shapeless, who may have said it best:

she was like a Frisbee
someone tossed
that got stuck on a roof.

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Sondra Wants A Gun

If I had
owned a gun,

if I’d had one at hand
any of the times I’ve wished for one,

if I had kept my little Browning
instead of trading it for acid,

if Dad had let me keep
the 12-gauge Ithaca,

if I had decided to take the .22
with me when I left home,

I’d not be writing this

Which is a comfort
to some

but not to me, who hesitates
with a knife and can’t decide

on a pill, who is too heavy
for a rope, who floats and swims too well

to drown, who cannot abide
the idea of a long fall to hard ground.

If I had a gun
I’d surrender to its swiftness.

If I had a gun
I could make it do the work I can’t.

If I had a gun
who would stop me?

If I had a gun
there’d be no more “if,” 


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How Sondra Dies

Sondra, you don’t know it
but you’re now officially dead.
You could have avoided it, but now
it’s too late.  You just ate the egg

containing the specific cholesterol
that will break free from an artery,
block your heart and kill you
a couple of years from now.

None of us avoids the end, and none of us
really knows which of our many decisions
get us there long before the moment itself.
Even the gun toters, the leapers, the razor children

get there long before they choose their weapons
for the duel they are going to lose.  It’s the way
of things: every choice a final choice, no matter
what we actually choose.

Whether your Eventual Stairway
leads up or down,
you’re on the approach now, Sondra,
walking briskly toward a handrail not yet in sight.

Don’t strain yourself, not that it matters really,
certain consequences are certain now
and while you don’t know exactly
when they’ll be felt, they will be, and it won’t be good,

Sondra, it won’t be good…but lucky for you,
you don’t have a clue.  You can’t hear me.
I can only watch tenderly and never let on.  If you knew,
you would call it cruel. Imagine how I feel before you judge…

but that’s unimportant.  Anyway, I will one day let you know
that it wasn’t all for naught…see,
earlier today,
when you sang “Hotel California”

in the shower for the third-to-the-last time? 
Next time, I promise you’ll be in tune.  And the time after that,
you’ll be even better.  And when you sing it
for the last time I will make you feel better

than you ever have felt.  You’ll step out wet
and reach for the towel.
You’ll dry yourself off
and turn toward the sun-filled window.

What happens after that, I cannot say. 

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Matters of Public Record

If you heard sirens this morning, that was probably me. I brought the old factory wheel from the back corner of the yard to the middle and doused it with gasoline, then lit it.

I ran inside to get the guitars and the books but someone saw it and before I could get them out to what I believed would be a pyre I heard the sirens so I stayed inside and called into 911 myself. Quick thinking.

I hurried back outside and picked up the gas can so I had an excuse for the smell on my hands. I told the firefighters it must have been a neighborhood prank. I don’t think they bought it, but I’m still home because no one can prove otherwise.

Right now, I’m out of cigarettes but feel a little nervous about going outside in case someone’s watching to see if I do try again. I’m waiting to see what the ravens say before I decide, but according to whatbird.com, there are very few ravens around here. It may be a long wait.

So I’d love it if someone would bring me some American Spirit cigarettes. I like mine blue, thanks.


Everybody, relax, ok? It’s a poem.

Sondra Is Born Again

NB: Looks like the second half of the Jim’s Fall cycle might be revving up…

When the ambulance
came for her she was lying
on the blue marble
and no one could remember
her name, but her face was so
cold it seemed right to name her
Icy and when she woke and responded to it
people called it a miracle but
they did not realize that the whole reason
she nearly died in the first place
was because she’d never had a name
before that seemed right —

Sondra Jane, Lazy Eliza, Lifting Belly,
Poppycock, Loveduck, That Bitch
From Down The Hall —

there are such things as stopgap names
and when Icy was first called Icy
she didn’t need to bother with them any further.

Her first breath upon waking was a needle fog
and her second was a dusting
and the third buried everyone around her
in white.

She left the hospital
walking on the tops of snowdrifts
and was comfortable at last,
light on the mind as a lost penny,
rolling the word in her mouth like a cube,
letting it slip loose and almost fall from her
but drawing it back in in time:

Icy, she thought. I am
that. I am
the name I grew into after all the
summers of disregard, and the beauty of the name is
that nothing can gain purchase upon me
until I choose to soften.

Jim and Sondra Share A Moment (fragment)

he slides
down the hospital corridor
in foam rubber slippers
and drawstring pants because
they’ve taken his belt away.

he spies her, lying in the bed
with her mummy-swathed wrists,
and when their eyes touch
it’s meat on a griddle: sizzle
and black marks all over.


It’s odd to me that the next piece of the Jim and Sondra poems should be the last one in the series as I’ve envisioned it, but perhaps I need to figure out the end before I fill in the middle. After all, the Jim Poems weren’t written in order either.

I’ve also decided to take the unusual step (for me) of sharing this fragment before the poem is substantially completed. Just an experiment. I have no idea if this is the beginning, the end, the middle, or whether or not this will even end up in the completed piece. It belongs here now, I guess.

After the Jim Poems


Next step: a series of poems introducing Sondra, the woman who’s going to eventually connect with Jim. I am nearly certain it will not be a romantic connection.

Then, one long poem about their connection and closing their stories.

All set to music, of course.


if things change, let me know.

sondra quicksteps along the front walk
repeating that.

if things change, let me know
for i do not believe they change.

sondra wishes she were the man
named alfredo but isn’t sure
she isn’t already, she does not believe
such a thing could have happened to her,
nothing ever changes.

if things change, let me know
for i do not believe they change
more than the least amount they need
to say things are different
and i am not used to noticing.

sondra thinks alfredo is not thinking of her
but she isn’t sure, she keeps checking herself
for signs of it, the eyebrow bent in doubt,
the dry mouth at the mention of her name,
his name. alfredo isn’t letting on,
or she can’t see it, all the small yearnings
that are there and again she wishes she were
the man alfredo. things may be changing.
if she were him, she’d know.