History of My Timidity
Little sister, little fiddlehead, you unfurled early in me,
your leaflets and blades swirled in my cerebellum,
though I would stand in the yard, muttering
Do not forget the plum blooming in the thicket!
When I’d slouch out on the longest legs in town 
I knew it was true 
what our Lithuanian grandmother said:
there were no other giantesses here like me, 
though she watched for Cossacks
from her jalousied window, afraid for us all.
I wore our brother’s shirts, mother’s skirts,
outsized shoes, my darling Clementine sandals—
“herring boxes without topses.” Dear homuncula, 
if I was fated to be large, I wanted not to live 
in the shadow of something small,
but to be the flamingo flaring on the lawn, tropical,
not the hermit turtle aestivating in pond mud—
What I wanted: flamingoes, and the world 
in my little radio under the pillow, 
all the lights out, you asleep, my soft-boned other.
I wanted music, jazz, comedy, Allen’s Alley,
Digger O’Dell the fr-r-riendly undertaker!
Intoxicating jokes in the nights!
And blues in the swooning nights, and Frankie Laine 
crooning to you and me, No tears, no sighs, 
we both have a lifetime before us and parting is not good-bye,
We’ll be together again. O Timidity, 
we were together, you, my piddling self, 
fermenting resentment, you, pissing on my desires—
like those murderous shy people of the bayous, 
crouching with their muskets behind the cypress knees.
—Even now, the memory of you shames me,
drags me back to our twinned days, swamps me 
in its black waters. Sister I abandoned, little one, 
in the day-world I pretended to be you, flaunting nothing 
in the no-privacy of our body—but in my internal exile, 
something else, a body steered by the rocky story
of its time, wanting the hula hoop, the hullabaloo, 
wanting the flimflam of flirtation, then wanting more, 
high-stepping through the muck away from you,
night after night, to get more, leaving you,
you—square-eyed, despairing, watching me go.
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