Dorothy Barresi
    Dorothy Barresi is the author of four books of poetry: All of the Above, The Post-Rapture Diner, which won an American Book Award, Rouge Pulp, and, most recently, American Fanatics.  She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and a Fellowship from the NEA. She lives in the San Fernando Valley and teaches at California State University, Northridge.
    Dorothy Barresi explores everyday suburban anguish and fear with a startlingly sophisticated voice.  Her poems are conversational and wise, packed with insights and fireworks.  In one poem she describes gold sandals as “toy birdcages”—a staggeringly wild and perfect image—and yet in the same piece she offers this thought, as if she were confiding in a close friend over lunch:  “You don’t have to love yourself very much / if you can trick someone else / into loving you.”  Her latest book, American Fanatics, couldn’t have come out at a better—or worse—moment . In this collection she delves into the weirdness of the post-Waco, post-Oklahoma City, post 9/11 world we’ve been living in for some time; we recognize, beautifully and uncomfortably, this world as she recreates it for us.  Dorothy Barresi’s bold and luxurious poetry hits the reader hard with its sometimes depressing opening-up of the soul of the individual and the nation, but it is always a satisfying delight for the mind and maybe for a few of the other senses as well. 

Los Angeles International Airport, November, 2001
Each checkpoint
was different.
At one we were asked
to recite
The Lord’s Prayer.
At another,
to sip from the wheezing guard’s
cold coffee mug.
Are you a wolf ?
Have you ever been a wolf?
Pancakes were fried
in a gentleman’s hat
who wished only to visit his mother
in flat Cincinnati.
A rooster was decapitated
and his head thereafter
though we knew not how,
it felt like love
to be considered so carefully.
The woman behind me
began to cry—
was there a little leak in her fate?
It was the world and the next day.
It was the apprehension of things unseen:
would, for example,
the sky accept
our names today?
The crossed blue circuitry
of the sky?
A pipe-and-curtain stanchion
was erected
around a toddler
who’d made a verbal error.
Outside, whipped cream was being pumped
along the runways—
“emergency foam,”
we supposed,
though no one ever landed
or took off.
A stewardess with a nosebleed
ran past,
chased by her suitcase.


Now it makes sense
to hate the young.
To fear them
as we fear the green hearth
of an open grave.
Under our ribs
we grew them,
spark and bright spoke.
We lived to love—
in mostly custodial ways—
the scald of their first beauty:
the underlife,
the milk stem,
the tingling, sucking babies who needed and needed us.
We licked the caul
of their birth hoods
back, then kissed
their yeasty heads
(though their teeth soon looked
a trifle sharp).
Oh, we could eat them up!
But the girl with the summer body, summer skin,
turning cartwheels on the lawn
at fifteen
wants to murder us, it turns out.

She’d do it with her own hands
and enjoy it.
She won’t have to.
The young are God’s gun.
Our DNA, re-
mastered in a cool gel matrix
wearing a little slip of a sundress, who coos
to the skateboarder
flipping us the finger.
At forty,
we meet ourselves coming and going.
It forms no small part of the plan
that as we thicken
toward middle age,
dragging our great, upholstered bellies
like ziggurats of commerce
to the goblin market
of our lumbering importance,
the young grow swift as vitamins,
the lilt of malice
in each step.
Lean as gall, wolfish, whistling,
they stand on the front porch calling:
Grandmother, Grandfather, let me in.
I’ve brought desert!
while we pile chairs
against the door
and miss our nap,
and fiddle with the thermostat.

2010 Dorothy Barresi
Dorothy Barresi was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the Npvember 2010 Second Sunday Poetry Series