Denise Duhamel

Poem in Which I Married Young and Stayed in My Hometown

I never became a poet because, well, who has time?
It was a kiddish, indulgent dream—I know that now.
Each morning I read The Academy of American Poets’
poem-a-day in my inbox, and honestly, I only understand
about a third of them. I hate pretense and obscure
mythology almost as much as I hated being married.
I was a restless bride and soon started catting around.
My husband divorced me when other wives called me
the town slut. But in their whispers I heard a tinge
of envy. I let my husband have the kids. I know—
what kind of mother does that? A mother
who thought she wanted to be a poet. A mother
who thought she had big pronouncements to make.
My journals were full of scribbles about life
and my longings. I even had a few verses published
and learned the hard way poets don’t make
any money. So I went to school for cosmetology
and opened my very own beauty parlor called
Her Kind, named after the Anne Sexton poem.
I poured my ambition into gel manicures, eyebrow
threading, waxing and highlights. What, you might ask,
were the highlights of my life? Transforming brides
and their wedding parties on early mornings,
right in their homes, my assistant with mimosas
and the spray tan machine. Most townspeople
have forgotten or forgiven my own transgressions.
I can make the ugliest woman feel beautiful, move her
to tears. The way a poem sometimes still moves me.

Poem in Which I Realize I Am a Cliché

I’m a bad egg, a cheap knockoff, a dead ringer
for a face only a mother could love.
With my half-baked ideas, I’m a jack
of all trades and a master of none—no knight
in shining armor, but a legend in my own mind.
I’m a multitude of sins, a necessary evil
building my nest egg for a new lease on life.
I’m a plague on all your houses, a riddle
wrapped in an enigma on a shoestring budget.
I’m in a sticky wicket, getting a taste
of my own medicine. I’m in a no-win situation,
a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Bet your boots,
I should have zigged when I zagged.

Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is a distinguished university professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.