November 23, 2020

Laurie Uttich

TO MY STUDENT WITH THE DIME-SIZED BRUISES ON THE BACK OF HER ARMS WHO’S STILL ON HER CELLPHONE

Oh honey, you can text him, you can like his meme, you can 
follow him on Twitter and to Target, you can ride shotgun, hold 
his anger on your lap, pet his pride, be his ride or die. You can 
wear those jeans he likes. You can discover Victoria’s 
secret, buy a bra with a mind of its own. You can 
recite I’m sorry like it’s a Bible verse and Snapchat the shit out 

of those purple roses he bought you at Publix. You can try 
every one of Cosmo’s 30 Ways to Give an Ultimate Blowjob
You can remember the name of his mother, his best friend 
in 2nd grade, the lunchroom lady who gave him extra 
chicken strips on Tuesdays. You can grow out your bangs, toss 
your hometown over your shoulder, sleep facing north 
with your cheek in his back. 
You can strip yourself for parts.        But, baby, 

it still won’t be enough. You can love him, but you can’t pull 
his story out of the dark and slide your arms into it. You can’t 
wash it and lay it flat in the sun to soften. You can’t 
hold his face in both of your palms and watch tomorrow 
bloom from the sheer wanting and waiting of it. It doesn’t 
matter if his daddy talked with his hands        or his bloodline 
is marinated in booze        or his mama loved his brother best. 
You can’t fix what somebody else broke. 

So, girl, put down your phone and pick up 
your pen. Take a piece of the dark and put it on a page. 
Sylvia Plath waits to wash your feet. And look, 
Virginia Woolf has built you another room and painted 
it pink. There’s a place for you at the table. Sit next to me; 
I got here late.        Oh, baby, don’t you feel it? You were knit 
for wonder in your mother’s womb. 
You were born for the driver’s seat.

from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Tribute to Service Workers

__________

Laurie Uttich: “At fifteen, I started what would be a ten-plus-year ‘career’ in the service industry. I’ve been a florist assistant, a server, a cocktail waitress, a bartender, a catering assistant, a donut shop worker, a ‘bar cart girl’ at a golf course, and other jobs. I typically worked one or two jobs regularly and then picked up a third when I needed more money. After getting my first ‘real’ job as a copywriter, I continued to work at various service jobs to pay off my student loans (and cover the rent). I don’t know who I’d be without spending so much time under the scrutiny of men (and sometimes women) who first tried to decide if I was attractive enough to hire … and then, later, by men who were customers and often intoxicated. I think about that girl back then and when I imagine my younger self behind a bar or squeezing between two tables balancing a tray, I see myself so clearly as prey, my face frozen into a smile. I suppose the easy response is that being a part of these environments made me a feminist poet, but that’s oversimplifying it. I was always an observer, but being in a situation where it feels as if anything could happen—and you’re supposed to be friendly right up until the second it turns into something else, and who knows when that will be?—shapes how I view situations and how I address them in my work. In prose, I’m always couching reflections—‘not all men’ and that sort of thing. In poems, I just swim in the emotion of the moment and I don’t worry about any global conclusions a reader might make.” (web)

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