Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel’s most recent book of poetry is Scald (Pittsburgh, 2017). Blowout (Pittsburgh, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other titles include Ka-Ching! (Pittsburgh, 2009); Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005); Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001); The Star-Spangled Banner (Southern Illinois University Press, 1999)and Kinky (Orhisis, 1997) She and Maureen Seaton co-authored CAPRICE (Collaborations: Collected, Uncollected, and New) (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Duhamel is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenhiem Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.  The guest editor is for The Best American Poetry 2013, she is a professor at Florida International University in Miami.  William D. Waltz in Rain Taxi, writes, "As I read her work...I feel like I'm taking a sneak peek at the future: Duhamel hints at a poetry that transcends irony and alienation.  There's plenty of both here, but she's busy working them over...pushing so hard that the next step may be beyond what is known."



You seared in noon sun
having called 911
after you’d pulled into traffic
without checking the side view mirror, 
after you’d pulled over to park
to call the divorce lawyer
to say you were lost, after you’d been
too scared to make that unprotected left—
your heartbeat like the samba setting
on the electric organ
that you would turn to “fastest” 
when you were a kid so you and your sister
could jump around in a flailing dance.

You’d rammed the back passenger door
of a silver Honda just like your own, 
the Jamaican nanny oddly calm, saying
Don’t worry, love. You looked into her Civic’s window, 
the empty car seat, and asked, Where’s the baby? 
afraid a child had been thrown. The nanny, 
thank goodness, explained she’d just dropped
the child at preschool.  You’d apologized
and apologized.  Rhe nanny must have thought, 
Here is another crazy white lady
and maybe you reminded her of her boss.  

Now you’d never get in to see
the best divorce lawyer in Miami.  
Your friend had called on your behalf—
and the receptionist explained it was this appointment
or else—because this lawyer preferred
to take on divorces of rich people
and you were not rich, though rich is relative, 
of course, and you were probably rich
compared to the nanny who said that the Honda
was her boss’s third car and she took the bus to work.  
Like me, she hated driving in Miami
and favored the side streets
like the one were on, the one that was a “Terrace” 
rather than a Street or Avenue
which is why even the police
were having a hard time finding you.

The nanny sat in her boss’s air-conditioned Honda
drinking a cup of gas station coffee
while you stood in that sun, punishing yourself—
no sunscreen or hat—and half-hoped
the police would arrest you
so it wouldn’t be your job to file and dissolve
this marriage.  You were half out of your mind
since you hadn’t slept in 48 hours
and you’d lost track of how many Xanax you’d popped
which seemed to be having their opposite effect, 
your samba heart clumsy and frantic.  

And only after the police finally came
and wrote you up—a ticket for being reckless—
after the nanny had driven off, did you realize
your car wouldn’t start, the crumpled transmission
kaput.  So you called Triple A and climbed into a tow truck
and the kind driver gave you water and asked, 
Lady, isn’t there anyone you want to call?

So you called your little sister in Massachusetts
who said she’d come and bring you
to another divorce lawyer herself in a rental car
while yours was being repaired. You’d learn
you were head of household, more like a man
than a woman, and your husband, like a 50’s housewife, 
would get half of what you had.

You called the nanny a few days later to make sure
she still had her job and she did.   Your sunburn blistered
then started to flake away.
Soon you’d be poorer, or half as rich.
Soon you’d be saner and get back
to wearing sun block and visors.
But first you’d spend nights
peeling away a layer of your own skin
your troubled forehead emerging pink and raw. 



You think I am only interested in you, oh self-centered human.  How you cry when I take the young girl.  Wasn’t it that pervert Poe who said, “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world?”  Willard Motley wrote, “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”  

You probably thought I didn’t notice your gendered thinking.  You probably thought all these years I was a man—the way you drew me in a cloak, my grim walk helped along with a scythe.  You probably thought when I peered from my hood that my male gaze was just like yours.  

Your vulgar TV shows are an insult to my powers.  Only ten percent of your characters are women, mostly young, those who other humans deem “hot.”  And of these ten percent, half go on to star as the corpse—washed ashore, their makeup somehow still intact.  Raped, kidnapped, naked on display in slabs at the morgue.  A concerned member of the patriarch slides each beauty from a wall the same way she once slid open her fridge’s vegetable drawer.

Caravaggio painted rotting fruit—and that, humans, is what I find “the most poetical.”  Consider the fallen mangos decaying on the lawn, raccoons eating the delicious garbage.  Consider the grape made raisin, the plum made prune, the dried peach in your granola.  The date or the fig, which you will see as a woman too: young and seeded, then dried out and preserved, the innards of a Newton. 

I saw you take that selfie with the statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha of Bewitched.  You were feeling particularly mortal, like Darren, but did you ever stop to think about how few statues of women there are?  Not only in Salem, MA but also in New York City where Alice in Wonderland was the only female statue until Gertrude Stein—at last, a “real” woman!—was erected in Bryant Park.

I wasn’t surprised you bought that pink size 2T t-shirt that boasted “I Am A Little Witch” under the silhouette of a conical hat and broom.  Always an admirer of witches, you thought it would be a great present.  But the parents of the girl pointed out the obvious subtext, obvious to everyone but you.  “Are you trying to say my daughter is a bitch?”

I know these conflicts are the ways you humans fill out your days to try to forget the dying grass, the dying seas, all the animals and birds, the robin’s egg fallen from the nest, the roses browning in your vase. 

And, of course, it’s true I am coming for you—young man, child learning to read, whiskered grandfather, mother of three.  I live in the double helix’s faulty twist of cancer and arrhythmia, strokes and cystic fibrosis.  I lurk in traffic and bullets, in knife blades and riptides.  I am here to do my job, round you up.  Hello, dear soldier and cyclist, dear obese night watchman and scrawny addict.  Hello, all you men, who statistically die first, who whistle by the graveyard of pretty girls.


Published May 2017 | The New Feminists | PoetsArtists


What does it mean, she asked us, to be good?
                                               —Honor Moore

good manners good eater good lover good listener good dog good boy good storyteller goody-two-shoes looks good enough to eat good witch good at math good-for-nothing good-looking got the goods a good book a good movie a good song on the Good Ship Lollipop my goodness good fellow good cop good buddy good egg from a good family in a good neighborhood with a good school with good teachers where you get good grades so you can get into a good college and get a good job at a good company with good benefits and a good retirement plan and make a good return on your good investments good luck good news good joke “hey, that’s a good one” good manners good lay good heart the good old boys’ network good mother good God that’s good booze good steak good legs good price good works good news good grief Charlie Brown looking for Mr. Goodbar goody-goody good old days good sale the good word good father good idea good night ladies we hate to see you go good race no good deed goes unpunished good wife good to the last drop goodness gracious Goodnight Moon Good Time Charlie good sport for a good time call good waiter one good turn deserves another good doctor a good licking a good swift kick have a good day the good the bad and the ugly good for a laugh only the good die young a good fit a good match good seats good husband good cholesterol Good ‘n Plenty good driver good help good person from good people good brother good businessman good deal good sister have a good time have a good cry good friend fight a good fight good morning good night Goodyear tires the good guy good vacation (bon voyage) good soup good nurse good politician it’s for the good of the people it’s over and done with for good say good riddance a good time was had by all

Poem © Denise Duhamel 2004. MiPOesias



Nick had food poisoning in Paris so he stayed in the hotel while I went to the French laundromat where I fiddled with the knobs on the unfamiliar machines and inserted big coins into airy slots. This guy kept trying to flirt with me, so I showed him my wedding ring and, when that didn’t work, Nick’s boxers. The stranger shrugged a Parisian why should I care if you’re married? shrug. I felt like a character in the background of Dorianne Laux’s great poem “The Laundromat” in which she uses the phrase “animal kindness.” In her poem, the speaker bends over to pick up her laundry and show some guy her ass at the same time. I’m the shy woman in a graying tee shirt, biting her nails, who no one in that poem even notices, who Dorianne Laux didn’t even bother to write in.

And what is the fun of being flirtatious anyway? Flirting is actually sort of scary to me. My theory is that it’s all about the ego of the flirter and almost nothing at all about the recipient of the flirtatiousness. And there’s even a shampoo commercial now that backs up my hypothesis—I only flirt when I look good—a woman checks herself out in a mirror as she comes into a room. And that’s sort of it, isn’t it? We flirt to make ourselves feel better or to try to make peace with our marriages or get our boyfriends/girlfriends jealous or whatever.

But I feel like a killjoy saying that because so many people get a kick out of flirting, and often it’s harmless. But so many things can go wrong, no? And what if you get in real trouble? I’m not even talking violence, but just hurt feelings. The one flirted with has to always reconcile with the fact that she’s been duped, that the flirter is taken, and the flirtation was nothing more than a little pick-me-up to make the flirter feel good. Know what I mean? And what if the person who flirts back—ooh la la—leads on the initiating flirter who, in this one instance, is actually serious?

It’s like that dry shampoo Pssst, popular in the seventies. Remember? It wasn’t really shampoo at all—it only made your hair look clean. Once when I was hemming a skirt at the beach, this old man came up to me and said my wife used to sew like that. Then the sad lull, the opposite of flirting. The waves crashed in Miami, the washing machines rumbled in Paris. The man I didn’t flirt with was offended and now I had no one to help show me how to use the dryer. I looked across the street where inside a tiny room my husband sweated and clutched his stomach. The romantic afternoon sunrays were butter pads melting into the hotel’s awning.


© Denise Duhamel 2004. MiPOesias.


                                   (after Luc Etienne, a variation)

To the reader: For the complete "Möbius Strip" effect, print out two copies of this poem.  Scotch tape the pages together into two long pages, each containing the entire poem, then cut away the title and anything under the last line of the poem which now reads, "my bra."  Trim away any white space beyond the left and right margins, leaving no more than an inch on each side to make a "strip" of words. Scotch tape, glue, or staple the trimmed poems back to back, so that both copies run parallel to each other, but in a mirrored image.  The first lines of both copies, " I slow-," should be back to back to one another, and so on.  Loop the poem into a cylinder, then twist it once before splicing and scotch taping what is currently the first line and last line together.  The last line/first line should now read, "my bra.  I slow-" on both sides of the Möbius. You can begin and end your reading of this "Möbius Strip" poem at any point you like--I suggest beginning any point where there is block of white space.

Click here to read and print the poem.
Available in printer friendly Adobe PDF format. 

Copyright © Denise Duhamel2003 MiPOesias.

PA84 Preview

By Didi Menendez in Poets/Artists

54 pages, published 4/30/2017

This issue includes all the poems, an essay by our cover artists, reviews by Lorena Kloosterboer and some of the artwork. The full issue will be out soon and it will include an interview with Elizabeth Sackler, Daena Title, Natalia Fabia and the rest of the artwork.
MiPOesias June 2014

By Didi Menendez in GOSS183

56 pages, published 5/28/2014

June 2014.
By Denise Duhamel
Scald (Pitt Poetry Series)
By Denise Duhamel

Bob Hicok

Bob Hicok was born in 1960 in Michigan and worked for many years in the automotive die industry. A published poet long before he earned his MFA, Hicok is the author of several collections of poems, including The Legend of Light, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry in 1995 and named a 1997 ALA Booklist Notable Book of the Year; Plus Shipping (1998); Animal Soul (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Insomnia Diary (2004); This Clumsy Living (2007), which received the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress; Words for Empty, Words for Full (2010); Elegy Owed (2013), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Sex & Love (2016). His work has been selected numerous times for the Best American Poetry series. Hicok has won Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has taught creative writing at Western Michigan University and Virginia Tech.


Getting there

Anas and I had Oreos this morning, as we do
once a week, on the bench outside his store, 
sharing them so we don't get fat
(ter). Now and then, for a change, 
Nutter Butters. Anas keeps a picture
of his mother above the register. 
Right before he was shot three years ago
by a thief, he focused on her face. 
Asked weeks later by a cop
what the man looked like, Anas thought
but didn't say, Home. He told me that. 
I told my wife, who told her mother, 
who told her mother, who said, How lovely. 
Even in her senility, her eyes sparked
to the word home. Anas' wife is dead, 
his mother, grandmother, but I've leant him
three generations of women
admiring his thoughts. Below
being a man, he's Anas. Beneath
being Syrian, he prefers Paris. 
Under wanting to get even, he doesn't. 
Retribution is like playing catch
with an egg. How far would we get with war
if every man first asked his mother, 
Can I kill? Most of whom would say, 
"It's may I kill. And no, you may not."
A boy's love for his mother's love of politics


My mother won't die 

in the next fifteen months. She has trouble
breathing, trouble making it from the table
to the counter, but she won't die
in the next fifteen months. She has
bad knees, lungs, heart. She weighs
way more than she should. Her blood pressure
and cholesterol are high. She can't
levitate. Can't change from a solid to a gas
and back. Seven kids have passed through her, 
four of us C-sections, all of us
treating her body like rugby, and one
may have been or still be a very large cat. 
But she won't die. She'll have doctors
implant Julianne Moore in her if need be, 
who seems happy and optimistic in interviews. 
Or sew her to a dirigible. She'll ask my father
to wire her to a light switch and read
by her eyes if he has to, but she's not
going to die in the next fifteen months. A woman
is about to be president. Half the country's
about to feel wanted by or despite
The Constitution. Half the world's
about to see themselves in TV's unblinking mirror. 
There will soon be a vagina in the Oval Office. 
Leading to the obvious question: 
why oval? Fifteen months. Four hundred
and fifty days. A countdown to fairness. 
And after that? You know what happens
after that -- democracy will still be an idea
that makes me cry in movies, the only place
really attractive people can figure out
how to make it work. And yes, my mother will die
eventually and probably badly, but how many of us
die well, even though it's among
the easiest things we'll ever do, requiring
no knowledge, training, or experience, 
no ropes or wrenches, no water or lightning
or guitars? All bodies know how to die, 
just as everybody knows you've got to be nuts
to want to be president. Which means equality
is the right of women to be crazy too.


A boy's love for his mother's love of politics: the sad sequel



David Lehman

David Lehman was born in New York City, the son of Holocaust survivors. Educated at Stuyvesant High School and Columbia University, he spent two years as a Kellett Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge, and worked as Lionel Trilling’s research assistant upon his return from England. He received a PhD at Columbia with a dissertation on the prose poem in England and America with reference to the French tradition. He taught at Hamilton College for four years, then was sponsored by A. R. Ammons for a year-long residency at Cornell University's Socviety for the Humanities. He left academe to pursue a career as a free lance writer and wrote frequently for Newsweek. His journalism and essays appear regularly in the Wall Street Journal and The American Scholar among many other print and electronic publications.  Poems in the Manner Of  (2016), his most recent book, comprises poems written in imitation, homage, parody, or translation of poets from Catullus and Li Po to Charles Bukowski and Sylvia Plath. He is the author of nine earlier books of poetry, including New and Selected Poems (2013),When a Woman Loves a Man (2005), The Daily Mirror (2000), and Valentine Place (1996), all these from Scribner. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present. Two prose books recently appeared: The State of the Art: A Chronicle of American Poetry, 1988-2014 (Pittsburgh), comprising the forewords he had written to date for The Best American Poetry, and Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World (HarperCollins). A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (Schocken) won the Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 2010.  Lehman teaches in the graduate writing program of the New School and lives in New York City and in Ithaca, New York.


Mother Died Today

Mother died today. That's how it began. Or maybe yesterday, I can't be sure. I gave the book to my mother in the hospital. She read the first sentence. Mother died today. She laughed and said you sure know how to cheer me up. The telegram came. It said, Mother dead Stop Funeral tomorrow Stop. Mother read it in the hospital and laughed at her college boy son. Or maybe yesterday, I don't remember. Mama died yesterday. The telegram arrived a day too late. I had already left. Europe is going down, the euro is finished, and what does it matter? My mother served plum cake and I read the page aloud. Mother died today or yesterday and I can't be sure and it doesn't matter. Germany can lose two world wars and still rule all of Europe, and does it matter whether you die at thirty or seventy? Mother died today. It was Mother's Day, the day she died, the year she died. In 1940 it was the day the Germans marched into Belgium and France and Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister. The telegram came from the asylum, the home, the hospital, the "assisted living" facility, the hospice, the clinic. Your mother passed away. Heartfelt condolences. The price of rice is going up, and what does it matter? I'Il tell you what I told the nurse and anyone that asks. Mother died today.

(May 10, 2012)


Poem in the Manner of Polonius

Neither a follower nor a leader be.
Vote, but tell no one for whom you voted.
Do not avoid jury duty. Avoid a fight,
but if attacked, fight back with all your might,

and don’t try to get laid on your first date.
Kiss her good night and call the next day.
Memorize verse, laws, and amendments
to the constitution. Obey the ten commandments.

Eat when hungry, have a drink when you need one,
and remember to have fun
at least once a week, and not to forget whose son
you are. Take your vitamins. Sign no one’s petition.

Travel light, and don't forget a sweater
when you wander in the dark talking aloud
to a mother or a lover though no one's there.
Look up at the sky, and see god in a cloud.


Riverboat Gamble

"Darwin predicted you," Jim Cummins said.
"You’re in the theory." His assailant fled.

People clapped. They wanted Jim to make a speech.
"My subject is Cincinnati," he said. "Do I dare to eat a peach?"

Into the room flew the fly, humming. "Place your bets."
"Shall we gamble everything on red?" Jim asked. I said, "Let’s."

It was a hot day in the Queen City.
Pitching for the Reds was Walter Matthau playing Walter Mitty.

When Jim got audited by the IRS, he cursed:
"It was like having an autopsy without being dead first."

A world-class wise-ass, he volunteered to prepare my return.
I pretended to do a slow burn.

But I didn’t mind. If life was a riverboat gamble, you could count me in.
Jim nodded. It was exactly as predicted by Darwin.

Poem in the South American Manner

Miro painted the sea’s curtain. I said go
ahead, abuse the laws of perspective,
choose not to lose your will to live.
Stay sober and you can join me, bro.

At the volcano, where we defied the embargo,
all bullish bravado, it was our turn to wait,
confuse the nine muses with fate,
drink cheap wine, memorize Vallejo.

No gringo fruit company can make a difference
to one who comes bearing no present,
wearing no tie, just work shirt and pants.

Ante up to play the future. No essence
precedes your last-chance existence
in my country of sugar cane and no parliament.

David Lehman and Gabriel Gudding | Poetry at Sea - Caribbean Princess May 2006.

David Lehman and Gabriel Gudding | Poetry at Sea - Caribbean Princess May 2006.

The Trouble with Spain             
                                for Gabriel Gudding, who asked for it

The trouble with Spain
is it doesn't exist
on my wrist
like a watch losing
two seconds in accuracy
each day of its life.

The trouble with pain
is it does.

The trouble with rain
is it was.

The postponement of the game
is the trouble with Maine
and the chill of the Atlantic Ocean.

The trouble with Cain
is he is constantly in motion.

The trouble with Jane
is the absence of lotion
or the suicide of Hart Crane
as the object of devotion
in a lonely lane
sipping a witch's potion.

The trouble with Spain
is no absence of pain.

The trouble with the bubble
is it's about to burst.

It won't be the first.

The trouble with the Rouble
is it's valueless,
not value-free.
It is we who are value-free.
We have the souls of moralizers
and secret abortionists
said T. S. Eliot at a meeting
of deceased ex-ministers.

Thank you, said the Ladies and the Sirs,
each of whom deserves to be kissed.

The trouble with them
is they don't exist.

  © David Lehman 2006


By Sean Sexton, Catherine Prescott, Yaccaira Salvatierra, Julie Marie Wade, Elizabeth Cross, Charlie Bondhus, Sara Biggs Chaney, David Lehman, Susan Chiavelli, Lois Marie Harrod, Ben Lucas, Orlando Ricardo Menes
Poems in the Manner Of
By David Lehman

Grace Cavalieri

Grace Cavalieri is the founder/producer of Public Radio’s “The Poet and the Poem” now from the Library of Congress.  She celebrates 40 years on-air and is a CPB silver medalist. She co-founded Pacifica’s newest station, WPFW-FM, in 1977. Then was Asst. Director of Children’s Programming for PBS; and after, headed Children’s Programming for NEH. In 2015 Grace received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Independent Review of Books, where she’s monthly columnist and poetry reviewer. She holds the Association Writing Program’s “George Garrett Award” for Service to Literature.  She’s twice the recipient of the Allen Ginsberg Award and, holds the Bordighera Poetry Prize, a Paterson Poetry Award, The Columbia Award, and “The National Commission on Working Women.” A recent poetry book Water on the Sun, is on the Pen American Center's "Best Books" list. Her latest play is “Calico and Lennie” (Theater for the New City, NYC, 2017.) Her latest book is With (2016, Somondoco Press) about her recent loss, husband (former Naval Aviator) Metal Sculptor, Kenneth Flynn. They have four children, four grandchildren and one great grandchild. Casa Menendez Press has published five Cavalieri poetry books.

Photograph by Joanna Tillman


Green Means Go

“Even the angry will love again, the moment anger stops…”  Rumi

All lights are green today, past the water, the school children, the autumn trees,

everywhere a lesson in happiness, except for my father again. This time

he is looking good for his age in a Palm Beach suit, now dating a young beautiful lawyer,

but she yells at me over the phone and I, unrestrained, start yelling back.

He tells me later not to worry, she left him for a younger man, am I happy now? 

Would I rather that he be alone? I feel like a plant. I go still as sleep.

He, on the other hand, is squirming with details, each one making me feel worse than the first. 

Even the rejected feels love for the rejecter, so much does love want to live,

so much does love want to love.  I hug him in my dream. We’re making progress,

I think, this relationship of ours, so long after his death, is moving along.

And the blessing which is raining down as I drive by this new dream, is how much

grief is meant to give us hope. That’s why it’s here. What else could it possibly be for?




I was afraid you’d dash off like a hero and not look back

  you’d die with the sinew of something left unsaid

I was afraid I’d cry at Jiffy Lube

I was afraid of your empty shirts hanging from the spine of their hangers

Or that I’d move the quiver of truth the way I wanted

I was afraid of losing my balance, a broken sparrow at the stairs

I saw the edge of your shadow from the corner of my eye

I was afraid of the space after “What else do I have to do, but be with you?” 

  I was afraid I’d forget how you looked

I was afraid of the first car crash, broken tools, my first flat tire

I was afraid to see you put into your final cement home

                                                                   Now, I’m not afraid of anything.


The Peak


Walking the ledge of mountains

to West Virginia through ditch and tunnel to

reach Martinsburg—

There you can pick me up by car but

the ocean is now reaching my feet,

making me thread more carefully 

the crumbling cliff. The basic

route is north but I’ve been going 

south to find you and now I have

to turn around and start again 

hour after hour winding though

the willows of loss. At this stage in our

lives, the great teachers tell us, if we

walk long enough we will be found but

so many mountains ahead, cork after cork

bobbing against the sky. You call me

on the phone and the gun of death

cuts our connection and you cannot hear

where to reach me.


INNUENDOES: Podcast for miPOradio

MiPOesias (Fall 2015)
By Nin Andrews, Grace Cavalieri
PA (#57)
By Nin Andrews, Grace Cavalieri, Larry Lawrence, Lexi Sebilian, Denise Duhamel, Leila Ammar, Jan Ball, P.H. Davis, Carlton Fisher, Ken Taylor, Bryce Ramming