Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel poet

Self-Portrait In Which I Refuse To Take Responsibility

for Emily Carr

That’s me not voting because I am sick
of being lied to, me tossing my Coke Zero can
out the car window—let Coke clean up the planet.
That’s me not saying sorry. That’s me
not picking up your socks or mothering you
so you’ll feel better about your temper.
That’s me not paying my taxes and not bringing
my cloth tote to the store. That’s me refusing
to wear my seatbelt, my perpetual smile. That’s me
eating a pink steak, running up a credit card
I’ll never pay. That’s me calling in sick—so sick
of being lied to I burn down a perfectly nice house.

Self-Portrait In Which I Am Not Polite

for Emily Carr

I’m not wearing lipstick. Hell, I haven’t even
brushed my teeth. My nails are unpolished, ragged,
dangerous if you try to take my hand. I don’t know
how else to say it … I just don’t care. There’s sleep
in my eyes, the gooey kind, dandruff on my scalp.
I have given up on deodorant and soap.
Say hello at your own peril. Sneer and I will whack
you, possibly throw an old stiletto—so duck!
I cut the line, honk my horn, chew with a full mouth,
then burp. The piercings in my ears have closed,
my heart has closed. And my clothes? I’ve stopped
doing laundry. I’ve stopped the tedium of handwashing
my delicates. I’ve given up on bras. They hurt.
I’ve given up on doing dishes, smiling, shaving
(or crossing) my legs. I’ve given up on purses,
bangles on my wrist, any expectations of femininity.
No, you cannot sit here. No, I don’t have a minute.
I’ve given up on the color pink and mirrors.
I leave splats on the floor and dust on the shelf.
I’ve never felt more like myself.

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.

More by Denise Duhamel:

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Poems at Poetry Foundation