It Starts With Me by P.J. Monroe
I stand up alone. Then you stand up. And then the others join in. We all rise up. We become a wall. We are unbreakable.
P.J. Monroe lives, writes, and paints in Lake County, IL.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
Looking out over the neighborhood,
she and I watched the action at the station
for the commuter train;
She is stretched into a straight line
lounging like a colorful celebrity
looking out at the night;
I feel I should apologize
for tormenting her with the business
of my own loose problems;
She stretches her back
and becomes once again interested
in my problems and the view
of Saturday night Chicago;
I talk to her of trouble
and she gives me a look
with her shining eyes;
Daytime seems so far away,
as we watch red vans;
I am speculating
as to the meaning of the look on her face,
secrets she has;
Her eyes glow;
She is living here with me,
watching bicycle deliveries go by;
She glances at the end tables
and then back to the avenue
where the people meander eastward
From here she can see the river
and the kids with baseball gloves;
those damnable strip malls,
that moved in from the suburbs;
Mostly she sees my complaints
and she listens with the most caring silence
Saturday, August 10, 2013
I thought I might try my hand at the fine arts. http://fineartamerica.com/art/photographs/rabbit/all" style="font: 10pt arial; text-decoration: underline;">rabbit photos
Jennifer Fliegel. That's me.
Jennifer Fliegel. That's me.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
I didn't understand a single thing he said, but I smiled and nodded politely anyway. My mother always told me to be polite. But, honestly, I was bored out of my skull. I didn't know anything about this car he was planning to get and restore. Why wasn't he like most guys; why couldn't he spend his time talking about sports? Sports, I know. My father is a big football fan and he has been dragging every member of our family to games for as long as I can remember. My best friend, Mary, says that is why guys like me so much, because I don't mind sitting around on the weekends watching sports. I would like to accuse her of holding incorrect stereotypes, but to be honest I have never been out with any guy who didn't love sports.
Until Greg. Greg has been talking about this car for the last half an hour and all I have understood is that it is red. Personally I don't know why anyone would go to so much trouble to restore an old car when there are really great, new cars out there. I tried to tell Greg, but he scoffed at that idea.
"Great, new cars? I don't think so. They just junk them up with stuff people don't really need. And anyway, there is nothing quite like the look of an antique."
I nodded politely. And then I tried to change the subject.
"So how did you do on Mr. McKinney's test today?"
"Oh, I think I did really well. I am pretty good in math. It comes in very handy when you are working on a car. For instance..."
How did we get back to this? I nodded politely again. I am going to have to thank my mother for teaching me that. And I think I am going to have to kill Mary for setting this up.
I never talked to Greg in Trig. class. But I saw him. And Mary saw me see him. I suppose I could not have been more obvious. My chin almost hit the floor. There he was standing there in jeans and a flannel and I could tell he had a beautiful body, which matched his smile. His eyes sparkled when he smiled, letting little specks of gold intermingle with the brown. His hair was short, so short I wasn't even sure if it was blond or brown. Now that I have been sitting here looking at his hair for almost an hour, I can definitely say it is brown, very light brown, but just a bit too dark to be said to be blond. Of course, it is probably a judgment call.
Mary was the one who talked to Greg first. I couldn't. I wanted to talk but I just stood there, next to Mary, smiling like a fool. I did notice, though, he kept looking at me, even when he was talking to Mary. I was so nervous I just grabbed Mary's arm and dragged her to two empty seats in the back, as far away from him, as possible. And there we sat for two months. Every day I would sit in my seat and stare at the back of this completely gorgeous person and daydream about how our date would go, if he ever asked me out.
According to my daydream, he would pick me up in one of those sporty cars which he has spent the evening decrying. He would walk up to the door wearing a three-piece suit. I don't know what it is about a guy in suit that makes me swoon, but I can't help it. I would come down the stairs, wearing a pale green (to match my eyes) dress, backless, of course. He would be so enamored with me, he would almost drop the flowers he was carrying for me. After handing me a bouquet of a dozen white and pink roses, he would take my arm. I would hand my flowers to my father, who would be standing there, nodding approvingly. I would glide out on Greg's arm and he would open the door for me. Then he would drive me to an elegant restaurant, where he would order for us and we would laugh and eat lobster and drink champagne. Then he would take me to go dancing and we would be so good that the other people would stop dancing and just watch us. And then he would return me home with a soft kiss on my lips.
Okay. I realize that was a big fantasy. I don't even own a pale green dress, let alone a backless one. My father has never approved of any of my dates. No high school student could afford lobster and we aren't old enough to drink. And I can't dance. But everyone has to dream. And that was my dream.
The reality was different. He picked me up in a station wagon, his mother's station wagon. He didn't bring me flowers. My father did not nod approvingly. My father didn't kill him, so that’s a start. I am wearing jeans and a tee shirt from our high school. First we went to a movie, which was a fine movie. Not great, not terrible. And now we are sitting in the local fast food restaurant/hangout. And I am listening to him talk about the car he wants to buy and restore. I can't believe this is happening. I smile and nod politely.
The food is gone and I am truly bored and I am just thinking I want to go home and go to bed and forget tonight even happened. I start to put my trash on the tray. Greg takes the hint and starts to clean up his trash. We stand and go to the trash can. We dump our stuff and walk out to the car. He does hold the door open for me. I get in and he walks around and gets in the driver side.
"So, I hear you are really into sports. I don't really know much about any of that. What is your favorite sport?" he says to me.
I am a bit taken aback. But I start telling him about football. He asks me some questions and I answer them. He looks genuinely interested. I hope I looked as interested in what he said about cars. We reach my house and he comes around and opens my door. He walks me up to the door. He looks at me, a bit nervous. And then he leans in and kisses me. Sparks. Definite sparks. My legs tingle. Oh, this is nice. I have never been so happy. Very happy.
Pulling away from me, he asks if he can call me tomorrow. I find myself unable to speak. I smile and nod politely.
"Great, maybe we can watch the game," he says.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
In the sticky, hot
On the backroads
that silently wind
over the green hills
the sno-cone stands
on the way
from Washington, D.C.
A scent hangs
on the humidity;
from the pastures
on which nothing grazes,
up over the trees
the small roads
and their sharp curves,
and sticks to the cars
along with the yellow
dusting of pollen;
of youth and home
of honeysuckle and green onions
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I sit to watch the children playing where I played, as
a small child, on the school's playground
I swing again on the jungle gym that I once fell off of
and broke my nose
Beyond the fence, which wasn't there in my smaller days,
is a wooded glen with the creek where I used
If you follow the water, you'll end up next to the baseball
field, where I spent my summers and the houses
that I watched them build
Behind those houses are the ones where I grew up
From there you follow the fence that was meant to keep
us out off the road but didn't
Go past the swimming pool on whose diving board I broke
my nose a second time
Keep next to the fence until you get to the hole, still
there and big enough to crawl through
On the other side is a pond, nothing special, even the
ducks don't go there
Walk around the pond and you'll see two posts connected
by a chain, to keep the cars out
You can swing on the chain, if you want, but I wouldn't
because I fell off it once, though I didn't
Follow the road, past the house where my best friend used
Cross the four-lane road, very carefully because the cars
might not stop
Walk up the steep hill between the apartment buildings
and turn left
Ignore the playground and pool on the right, I never played
Second to the last apartment building, second floor, door
in front of the stairs, be sure to pet the
cat when you come in
These are the directions my life has taken
Sunday, June 16, 2013
I checked through the peephole. I found there were five of them. Two more than I’d been expecting. Leave it to them to invite along their own guests without telling me. The ducks stared up at me when I opened the door. They started quacking immediately. Quack, Quack, Quack. Loudly. I stood back and held the door open. The ducks came in. One of them was pulling a little red wagon. Inside the wagon was a plate of cookies.
I led them to the living room. I tried to make pleasant conversation, but the ducks were quacking quite vigorously and quite loudly, so I could not get a word in edgewise. I had put my good china out for this tea party. I hustled to the china cabinet to get two more settings. The teapot was full, but I went into the kitchen to put some more water on to boil. I wasn’t sure there would be enough tea for all of us. I would just have a small sip; that should help.
When I got back to the living room, I saw two of the ducks sitting on the coffee table. One of the tea settings had been knocked over. Another duck was quacking wildly at the cat, who was cowering in a corner. The other two ducks were going through my DVD collection, picking a selection up with their bills and then discarding it on the floor. The stereo was playing Sheryl Crow a little too loudly for my tastes. And the quacking!
I tried to pour the tea, but one of the coffee table ducks kept pecking at my hand, until I finally dropped the teapot. It smashed to pieces on the floor. I went into the kitchen to get some paper towels. When I returned, the ducks that had been going through the DVDs had moved on to the CDs. There were two piles. The first pile included The Byrds and Counting Crows. I assumed the other pile were the rejects. I tried to offer a nice game of Scattergories. I was ignored. I cleaned up the mess that had been made of my teapot and finally gave up. I took the tray of cookies from the red wagon. Eating a cookie, I plopped myself down and listened to the quacking and watched the destruction of my living room.
Ducks have no manners, but they bake the best cookies.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Waking to the grey sunshineless light that
falls over my bed covers
I rise and go to my window with its
suburban snow view
The perfect white on the parking lot, like my
own typing paper, and then the cars
come to write their poetry
I dress like the day, grey and black with
hard boots, so as to stomp
the people down
I go outside where the air covers me in
softness that I am unable to
The smell of snow long gone from the air and
the snow on the ground turned into
slush, like the slush that fills the sky
I long to be two months and ten miles
forward, sitting at the Inner Harbor
in the spring sun
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
Sitting at our window and
watching the entrance to a restaurant,
her head rests on my shoulder;
Looking at the rising tide of people,
turning over and over;
I think about the others before her,
some with even stranger names;
But I thought of this poem while I was watching her
Soon the image of words died
as I became entranced with petting her fur and
as she found the unimagined spot in my heart
Friday, June 7, 2013
There were more than I’d been expecting. The night before, when I had left my jeans on the floor, there had been four holes in them. And now, in the morning light, there were six. The four old holes were getting a little larger everyday. But the two new holes were small. Small and in the shape of a little bunny mouth.
I looked over at William. He was looking innocent. He was not innocent. He munched hay, as I talked to him.
“That’s it. No Star Trek for you today.”
William is a weird little bunny. Not because he likes to chew holes in things. That is a very normal bunny activity. William is weird because he likes to watch Star Trek. And he knows his Star Trek. The Original Series. The Next Generation. Deep Space Nine (his personal favorite). Voyager. He does not, however, consider
to be a valid
Star Trek series , but who among us does?
He understands that all of these things are Star Trek. When I turn on Star Trek, he comes running
into the other room and stares intently at the television. During the commercials, he cleans his toes
and ears or snuffles around. But he
understands that’s not Star Trek. He
doesn’t watch any other television shows.
Not even other science fiction.
Just Star Trek. Weird little
bunny. So every day, at , I turn on the SciFi channel and
we watch Star Trek together. But not
today. Today, William is being punished. Enterprise
I put on my jeans, the ones with the holes in them and a tee shirt, which also had little bunny holes in it. I padded, barefoot, into the kitchen. William followed closely behind me, anticipating breakfast.
Walking through the door of my kitchen, I found myself in the Oval Office. There was a nice looking gentleman behind the desk. No president I knew. But, hey, anyone sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office had to be the president, right?
“Good morning, Mr. President. I’m just getting some coffee.” I said to the man behind the desk.
“Security!” the man said into an intercom.
I walked over to a coffee trolley and poured myself a cup. Just as I was taking my first sip, several Marines with guns were standing around me. I walked slowly backwards, showing my hands and the fact that they held nothing but coffee. I kept backing up. William was circling my feet, making it hard for me to not trip and fall down. Tripping and falling down would definitely be a bad thing. William and I continued our slow movement backwards. The Marines continued to point guns at us. And then we were back in the hallway of my apartment.
“Well, I’ll have to get your breakfast from the grocery store, but you’re going to have to wait until I drink my coffee,” I said to William.
I went to the front door and opened it. I was looking for my newspaper. Instead I found an alien vista of some sort. William continued to snuffle around my feet. He looked up at the vista but quickly lost interest when he figured out that if wasn’t Star Trek. I closed the door.
William and I went into the living room. Standing there, looking quite confused was a Roman solider. I smiled and pointed to the porch door.
“You want to go out there,” I said, which was silly, because he couldn’t understand what I was saying.
He looked at me, looked at the door, looked at me. I walked over to the door and opened it for him. Through the door I could only see my own porch, but I had a suspicion that it really lead to some part of the
Empire. I motioned to the
soldier that he should go through the door.
He seemed to understand and went through. William tried to follow him, but I put out my
foot to stop my bunny from ending up as Caesar’s dinner. I closed the door and went to sit on the
couch. I turned on the television and
leaned back to drink my coffee. William
jumped up on my lap, causing me to spill my coffee. I sighed.
“You know you have to stop chewing holes in the space – time continuum,” I said to William, who was licking up the spilt coffee, “And my jeans.”
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
He looked sad;
He'd had a bad week;
I walked over to him
and gave him the biggest hug
that I could muster;
No words spoken;
No need for them-
He hugs me back;
we go our own ways;
I can hear a slight, quiet, "awwwww,"
as I walk away
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
My lover of six years left me. He left me with “I love you, but I love her more.” Could there be anything more horrific in its romantic implications than that? I would have preferred to hear, “Get away from me, you psycho bitch.” Instead, he told me he loved me and then he left. And I was left alone to contemplate how he wasn’t such a bad guy, to think about the times he’s nursed me back to health and the times we had laughed together, to dwell on the fact that he loved me. He just loved her more.
“Adonai,” I cried.
And then my pet rabbit looked up at me and said, “Here I am.”
So I went to the kitchen and returned with a carrot and I stroked his ears as he nibbled on his treat.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe who gives us bunny rabbits.
My boss went insane. Technically, I suppose that’s not right. It implies that at some earlier point, he had been sane. In all the years I knew him, he had never been that. Then one day he walked into the office and met with the other senior partner to tell him that he was closing down the firm and then left for the day. It was December 30th, so when we saw all the junior partners crowd into the office of the only sane senior partner and close the door, we thought they were talking about our raises or, maybe, considering giving us New Year’s Eve off. Then came the memo announcing that we were all fired. I wanted to call my lover and find support but I remembered that he wasn’t my lover anymore. He was hers. And she probably hadn’t gotten fired today. Instead, I went home and threw myself onto my bed.
“Adonai,” I yelled.
And then I felt my cat rubbing up against me and she purred, “Here I am.”
So I wiped my eyes and got her mouse-on-a-string and played with her until we were both tired and we fell asleep, curled up together.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe who gives us kitty cats.
I spent the day feeling sorry for myself. Alone in
with no lover and no job. Far from my
family, with only the winter winds which come off the lake just to stab
me. I missed the Southern Januarys of
youth and the hills where I spent them.
I was as flat and freezing as this place I lived. Chicago
“Adonai,” I bellowed.
And then the phone rang and from the other end of the line, my younger sister said, “Here I am.”
So we talked about her life and mine. We talked about school and love and happiness. And we promised to see each other soon. No amount of distance should keep family apart.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe who gives us baby sisters.
It was Friday, so I set out candles and bread and wine. And I said prayers and performed rituals 6000 years old. In the morning, I went to synagogue. There, members of the congregation greeted me with understanding in their eyes and voices. They clapped me on the back and spoke kind words. After the rabbi had brought around the Torah and I had kissed it, I went back to my seat.
“Adonai,” I whispered.
And then there was silence.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
On the side of a gravel road,
and tilting towards the ground,
an old country grocery store;
The front is covered
with settled, grey gravel dust;
I was five
when my sister
first walked me
down the gravel road
to Middlebrook grocery,
The Orange Store;
But I grew into an adult
And the road grew into a major route;
The Orange Store
sits with old gravel dust
and a new exhaust film
in between a trailer park
and a shopping mall
and across from a mini-mart;
Old orange paint chips,
no longer bright,
lay among the gravel
that is only in the parking lot;
And yet I still walk there
Thursday, April 11, 2013
“Fuezle!” I cried out, in the half-frantic, half-asleep way of someone just awoken. I had been awoken by my husband. He was trying to be quiet. Trying to be quiet is a pretty sure way to wake someone up. I don’t know why.
“It’s alright; I took care of it,” my husband assured me.
“What?” I asked. I had been sneezing all day and I couldn’t take it anymore and finally took an antihistamine. One little pink pill and I was knocked out for hours. My husband came home from work and saw me sleeping off the medicine. He tried to be quiet and, consequently, woke me up from a very deep sleep. I didn’t actually know any of this at the time, as my head was still wrapped around the little pink pill, leading me to ask my question.
“Hey, you’re not sneezing,” my husband remarked. No, no I wasn’t. Which meant that I had taken an antihistamine. Which meant I had been sleeping. Which meant my husband had woken me up when he got home. Suddenly, it all made so much sense. I shook some more of the sleep out of my head and looked at my husband.
“Was I saying something?”
Look, nobody every said I was bright, even in my best moments. And this was not one of my best moments.
“You asked about Fuezle. I said I took care of it.”
“Oh, that’s good! Oh, I’m so excited! Aren’t you excited, Kitty?” I asked the bundle of fur on my legs. The cat apparently had not been awoken by my husband coming in and she apparently was not all that excited.
I waited days for Fuezle. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so excited. I couldn’t focus on my work. I could barely sleep or eat. I just bounced around the house, making ready for Fuezle. My husband was just as excited, but he’s much more mellow than I. He went to work everyday. I would kiss him good-bye and then flutter around the house, a butterfly on its little butterfly errands. The day would pass slowly, until finally I would hear the front door open.
“Fuezle?” I would scream to my husband from whatever part of the house I was in.
“Not today, Dear,” he would say.
I would be disappointed and mope all evening, while my husband would tell me I couldn’t let all my emotions get wrapped up in this one thing.
“It’s not a thing! Fuezle!”
“Yes, Fuezle,” he would say, calmly.
But his act wasn’t working on me. He was trying to keep busy, trying to distract himself from the anticipation of Fuezle. He would go to work early, work hard and late, then he would come home and putter from project to project, never finishing any of them. He started to build a cat post with a little bed on the top for Kitty to use. He started to organize the front closet. He started to put in a new kitchen sink. As for me, I spent my days waiting and cleaning up the messes of his half finished projects. I spent my evenings pacing and pouting. I spent my nights dreaming of Fuezle.
Finally, a couple of weeks after my husband had woken me from a sound sleep, I heard the front door open. Even before I could call out what was now my traditional greeting, my husband yelled, “FUEZLE!”
I came running, the cat at my heels. The two of us lined up in front of my husband, who was holding a rather large box. I smiled so hard my teeth hurt. The three of us went to the dining room table. My husband went to get scissors, while the cat and I waited. Kitty kept nuzzling the box, marking her territory.
“My box. My Fuezle. Mine.”
When my husband returned, he cut open the box and pulled out the packing peanuts. There it was. It seemed like we had waited forever and now, there it was. Right in the box. Fuezle. The cat nuzzled some more while my husband and I exchanged gazes. Then the three of us stared into the box. And all was good. Because of Fuezle.