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About this Poem 

"I wrote this poem after hearing Margaret Cho in an interview off-handedly make a joke about her many tattoos—she said that she couldn’t really carry a corsage because she’d clash with it. I laughed, but she also made me think about woman-as-flower, and that led me to the rest."
—Denise Duhamel

Permanence

Denise Duhamel, 1961

The barista at the coffee shop is covered in tattoos. She says there are only two ways they hold her back. 1. She can’t work at Starbucks. 2. She can’t wear a corsage, since she’d just be way too busy, and this makes me laugh. She says no to gifts from prom dates—the wrist corsage, the pinned corsage; no to bridal bouquets, the get-well-soon carnations. One day soon her mother will insist on sympathy wreaths around her coffin, which is closed, lest she be confused with the flowers.

Copyright © 2013 by Denise Duhamel. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 24, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel

Born in 1961, Denise Duhamel is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry

by this poet

poem
Men are legally allowed to have sex with animals,
as long as the animals are female.
Having sexual relations with a male animal
is taboo and punishable by death.

As long as the fish are female
saleswomen in tropical fish stores are allowed to go topless.
Adultery is punishable by death
as long as the betrayed
poem
In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philosopher
Gautama teaches "All is emptiness" 
and "There is no self." 
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man 
with such a belly could pose, 
smiling, and without a shirt.
poem
They decide to exchange heads.
Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin 
over Ken's bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles
atop his girlfriend's body, loosely,
like one of those novelty dogs
destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.
The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country