Patricia Goodwin: Writer


Killer Bodies and Susan

A woman does not kill by hard body alone

sometimes a soft body is required

plenty pushing the pneumatic electricity

of nipples

plenty swaying side to side

a horizontal mountain range

with only one treacherous pass

a Grand Canyon

a sunken world

the fecund delta of a sparkling riverbed

a full cup overflowing

not overturned

generous, pillowy

as a mother, yet

not a muscle out of place



drop dead at the door



ankled in ocean

A Soft Statue of Liberty

on a planet

How to Live On Love in Summer - (Jay and Jane)

  1. Get a beautiful man or woman
  2. Walk barefoot and take the blue beach with you
  3. Holes in jeans to let cash flow
  4. Eat the sun and glow with light
  5. Grow taller
  6. Laugh together
  7. Defy gravity
  8. Just say yes
  9. Brush with flouride three times a day
  10. Breathe (till autumn)

The Mechanic


when there’s nothing

left to believe in

you can believe in

his arms


Marblehead Moon

Stroll the shadows

of the house at midnight

follow the stream of light

to its source

the moon

but, look, this is not a modern moon

this moon startles you

with its wisdom

a father’s face

no, older

a father and father face

a beard of molten clouds

grey father white father

tree limbs that frame it

born in 1500

and the window you look through

eight paned by hand

I once saw the moon

framed by streetlight

that moon was technical


it was not bright

it pleaded, sighed

in a parking lot sky

it drfited

even in day, pale and afraid

I could not change it

so I left it

for this history moon

this illuminating

ancient arms of tree moon

tree arms that are my arms

on this three hundred year old farm

reaching through the windows



We are Atlantis!

We are glorious!


We are not a legend

but a memory realized

a mountain top risen

out of the mighty ocean

an Olympus

where Gods live!

We are Golden!

Our sandals are Golden upon Golden Streets!

We are an island


in the mighty ocean

Our Mother cowers

against our Mighty Shores!

Titans, we rule with Peace!

Golden Peace!


How we wear our Peace!

Shining upon our heads!

Glowing upon our Golden Feet!

How we devour our Peace!

consuming fat sandwiches and pies

dripping with our Peace!

How we inherit our Peace!

Conversing happily from place to place!

Our sandals Golden upon Golden Streets!

How enlightened we are in an Age of Enlightenment!

How Frank!

How we reason with oily argument, burning wit!

Eyes closed in the rapture of our charms!

How we have conquered Space and Time

in our image!

Raping the heavens as a virgin sacrifice!

Biting into the moon and Mars

with our Titan mouths!

Making a billboard of the sky!

Gratifying the clear rivers with our Golden Waste!

How we have made Hunger!

Making her go forth into other nations

and return us slaves, bewildered,

who scramble at our Golden Feet

for bar codes

and are, secretly, branded, Inferior

We are Atlantis!

Kiss our North!

Kiss our South!

Kiss the East, the West!

the Golden Gate, the Golden Arches!

the Golden Grain is forgotten

We alter our Mother!

twist her into a more convenient shape!

We stamp Our Coin

with the Face of God!

He is waiting

at the bottom

of the sea

Have Faith in Popcorn

Do you cocoon?

Do you?


Do you support our troops? for $2.50

you can slap a yellow ribbon on your fender

and wherever you go

people will know

Don’t leave home without it

Do you?

Do you support our troops?

Each and every lot must supply:

1/6 of a war chariot

2 horses and riders

one pair of chariot horses, a horseman, and a charioteer

2 heavily armed soldiers

2 slingers

3 stone shooters

3 javelin men

4 sailors (for fleet of 1200 ships)

Do you cocoon?

Do you bunker down?

Do you have your colonial blue, down-filled

L.L. Bean Bag

you can get into in your jammies and robe

and zip up

while you watch

the war on tv?

the streets are quiet at night

no cars zoom by like they used to

a man ran by on fire, it wasn’t a dream

everyone is counting their blessings at home 4, 3, 2, 1

“I used to live where the doctors and lawyers had their homes

but I was driven out by Saddam. Now, I am back!”

says the Iraqi man on tv

he is sitting on a jeweled and golden throne

from one of Saddam’s palaces

on the same porch where he once sat with his grandmother

he doesn’t know where she went

but he shows you the chains on the walls

of what was once her room

and the bloodstains

and tells you how the neighbors, who never left,

could hear the screams of men all night

even though Saddam

had soundproofed the rooms

long after the Golden Island fell

that which held sway over all the country to the East

within the Pillars as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia

all this was prophesied

by the ancients to occur again

and by Faith Popcorn

who said mayhem in the streets

would keep us from going out

she said we would “cocoon”

munch on popcorn

hook up to cable and watch ourselves

commit crimes on tv

from our cocoons

from Saddam’s throne

and, deep in the desert,

inside a carpeted tent

hooked up to a rackety generator

munching on candy, women in burkas watch

a pink plastic tv that buzzes with Dynasty

As published in the anthology
Under Her Skin:
How Girls Experience Race in America

This is an excerpt from
"A Child’s Christmas in Revere"
by Patricia Goodwin

Revere, 196-

Ma stood at the kitchen window, smoking one Tareyton after another, peering out the night window that blinked with Christmas lights like a pinball machine. Whimpering and clawing at her legs was her little terrier, Tareyton, named after her cigarette, and the commercial for the cigarette where all the Tareyton smokers have one black eye, just like the terrier.

“Jesus!” Ma growled through her teeth, clamped down on the cigarette as she bent down to pick up the wiggly little rat. “She’s killing me! My legs!”

Ma resumed her gaze out the window, sending bullets of radar into the car lights rushing toward her.

“Christ All Mighty, where the hell is he?”

I didn’t pay too much attention to her. I was running into the kitchen to get my fiftieth low-calorie snack of the evening, an apple, maybe, or a piece of cheese, sliced clandestinely from the large chunk in the refrigerator, getting smaller, a tiny mouse nibbling it away.

I ran back to my all-consuming life in the living room, the details of which I have forgotten, though not completely. And I also haven’t forgotten how seriously I took those fantasies and fables to heart. Maybe it was The Addams Family--after all, Ma called me Morticia because of my long hair; maybe Robin Hood, to whom I played Maid Marian in my mind; maybe Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, which we got in wonderful black and white. Jakey and I used to argue about what the colors might be. If you knew one, like Santa’s red suit, for instance, you could almost guess what the others might be. Always, I was sure I was right; it’s a lost skill, or maybe, I was always wrong.

How deeply we lost ourselves in the darkness and the blue light flickering. It erased the floor, the ceiling, the walls, and everyone around me. Only TV Land existed.

That night I was intent on getting back to whatever drama was playing itself out on the screen, but as I rushed past her, Ma’s torment pulled at my careless mind and body. I didn’t have any idea how much she needed Daddy to set up the Christmas presents under the tree, that Christmas might not happen without him. I was old enough to question the existence of Santa Claus, and young enough to forget I questioned it.

Besides, she was always waiting for him, always standing right there at that window, smoking, begging the horizon to produce his car lovingly zooming toward her. I’ll never wait for a man! I vowed as I ran by her, convinced she was an idiot; yet, half my heart remained with her, standing at that window, hugging her with that squirmy, maggoty dog.

Deep in TV Land, once more floating in the virtual world, I can still hear the front door open, with its peculiar ssquee-runch! It stuck in damp and swollen weather.

“There he is!” Ma’s heart sighed audibly, while her dog burst into the frenzied howling of a terrier.

Daddy’s cheerful, proud-of-himself face came in, beaming full, catching the streetlight from outside. But what was that with him? Against the black night behind Daddy’s shoulders was a black shape following him, then eyes, shiny bits of white, staring eyes. Eyes, flipping from side to side. Tall eyes at first, then short eyes, flipping even faster, two little pairs of them.

Colored people!

What were colored people doing in our house?

Terrified little children, a boy and a girl, about four and five years old, standing close to their mother, tall, pretty, eyes cautious, staring. Next to her a colored man, taller than Daddy, angry, chin set hard, eyes furious as a man in chains.

The children inched backward into their mother, her eyes round and determined. She held her kids by their shoulders as they shivered with fear, then gently, pushed them forward; patient, she was. Slowly, the children came into the living room, where three white kids sat gape-mouthed and cross-legged on the floor. The man, angry as hell, and Daddy, a beacon of hospitality, stood in the doorway. Daddy introduced his kids.

He got our names right, but not our ages, not that anyone cared. I didn’t know then how drunk he was, only that he was bringing in colored people.

Ma ran in from the kitchen. Now that I’m older, I can see her in my mind stubbing out her cigarette, tossing her barking, clawing dog into the pantry and quickly shutting the door, getting her brain in order: My husband has brought colored people home with him, there are colored people in my house--what to do?

Rush to the door and welcome them.

“Their car broke down on the parkway,” Daddy explained to Ma. “I said, ‘It’s Christmas Eve! Come home with me; don’t stand out here in the cold, come home with me! The little lady will make us some coffee, get warm! Eh, we’ll go back for the car later!’ Make us some coffee, Rosie, will you?”

The two trembling kids were deposited with us in the dark living room, while the adults went into the kitchen. Kids were always just dumped with kids; adults went with adults.

It was Jakey who spoke to them. He was used to colored people, though I don’t know how--maybe from the carnies on the beach, or it might have been from the track people, though neither of these groups seemed especially colored to me.

“You ever watch this show?” Jakey asked the little boy.

He nodded vigorously. All five of us kids returned to TV Land and floated together. We didn’t say another word to each other.

Which was why we could hear every word from the kitchen.



For more, please read Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America