By edict of will, you outlived the mother whoplanted her Cadillac in the flower bed, chromecrushing the bougainvillea. Groans, then howlsfrom the bedroom where he locked her to soberup. Mother, who baptized you good-for-nothing,her great mistake, so when a slick-talking shysterpaid you mind, feeding crumbs to the gullible,you gave in to his one-ring circus. Being wed,then being whored—fleeing him, months later,with the feral instinct of a woman sufferingunspeakable violation—you left with a cleanblouse and a clutch of dollars stuffed in Keds.
In the ballad of odd jobs, you trilled each note:waitress and escort, nanny and janitor, cardshark and croupier. You sloughed off vestigesof marriage, took on life as if it were jackor backgammon. Steady stakes, no prison orreligion: your motto in those years. No god,no hard time. And no looking back, thoughyou gave stern side-eye to each new reality:how to avoid assault and battery; cauterizea bleeding cervix; dodge a punch and charmthe paunchy; flatter the vain and indigentlywealthy; fire a flan; stay lean and healthy.