Valerie Lawson dropped out
of art school to go to life. She lives in a cottage on a pond in
America’s Hometown, Plymouth, MA, with a 20-year-old daughter (a cadet
at Norwich University) and two slightly psychotic Siberian Huskies.
She works as a medical assistant in a pediatric clinic and coordinates
the literacy program there, Reach
Out And Read.
Valerie is the slammaster of a biweekly poetry event at The Daily Grind Coffeehouse in Bridgewater, MA, and she also runs a quarterly slam at the Fuller Museum of Art in Brockton, MA. (She’s trying to develop this series into a teen slam.)
The Daily Grind Coffehouse, on Rt. 18 on the Bridgewater Common, features poetry on every second Saturday night—an open mike, feature and slam with prizes. First place gets $10; second place gets a bag of coffee beans, some chai, or whatever exotic thing the gracious owner sets forth. For more information, contact:
Valerie Lawson, (508) 833-3100, or
The Daily Grind, (508) 279-9952
Click here for the current Daily Grind schedule, or look for it on Michael Brown’s Slam News Service website.
Samples of the poet’s work: (including an audio)
“Girls don't play hockey.”
It’s the Bridge Street gang, in my ears
as my daughter takes to the ice
in a rink in Vermont.
When I was a kid, put your pads on
and come dressed and ready to play
sounded like a girl game to me.
This was Bruins country, you could learn to fly
like Bobby Orr, cruise the slot like Phil Esposito
where everything you touched scored,
bang away on the boards
and come out swinging like Pie McKenzie,
taking on guys two or three times your size.
Wear fake scars on your mask like Gerry Cheevers,
not real ones inside.
“Hey, hey, hey, I come to play hockey,”
it was the goalie, the Irish looking kid
with the Cape Verde name I can never remember.
He bellows it loud, like Fat Albert
and I want to smash his face
but I’m on the bench, the stonewall
we called a bench on Bridge Street
where we played street hockey
in front of Murph’s house.
I watch Murph and Tippen rough it up,
show off, high stick, drop their gloves
and wail away at each other, drawing blood.
They drip snot and tears,
stumble in to Murph’s mother,
she clucks and fusses, ices their wounds,
and I feel a chuckle come on,
a laugh I share with Eddie Shore,
his ear in ribbons, my nose smashed
the week before and I wouldn’t tell
whose hand was on the other side of the glove,
couldn’t tell or the game would end.
“Let her play.” It’s my Irish twin brother,
goalie for the other side, “Let her play.”
And I do, step off the bench,
take my turn time after time
and if I could have threaded a needle
as neatly as I could slip a wrist shot through a five hole
I would have made my Nana proud.
One day, I stopped being the girl
who played hockey and became
the hockey player who was a girl.
There was nobody else like me then,
but there must have been.
We’re sitting in a rink in Vermont
and on either side of the red line
there are two whole teams girls
dressed and ready to play.
My daughter steps off the bench, taps her stick on the glass,
waving to me, I don’t want her to see me cry
as I wave back, the look she gives me tells me she knows,
and I can feel Eddie Shore’s hand
on my shoulder, his ear neatly stitched
as if he had done it himself.
My daughter spins to a stop,
waits for the puck to drop
for the whistle to blow and the game begin
up here in the stands, away from the boards
it looks more like ballet
more like the flight of butterflies.
Water runs graceful and wide
where the river bends, scoops out
August green pools deep enough to dive into
from the end of a tire swing
as it reaches the end of its arc.
There was a time when crayons were true,
the colors more pigment than wax,
when whole rows of new books marched on shelves,
the title page of each volume carrying
the smell of good paper and fresh ink.
A radio station plays jazz at three AM
whole notes take shape, tumble on to the pillow
slip in and out of the ear like breath
catch the receiver in the upper region of the heart
cascade through bundles of fibers,
puppet strings that pick up the tune,
keep the beat, dance the song.
You are all of these things,
the door into a round room of doors,
the window opened to night becomes day.
The ladybugs came in first, to scope out the place,
then the spiders, no suspicion yet, spiders are OK,
they eat bad bugs, even if they are a little wicked.
When the first mouse arrived, I thought, how cute!
The mouse had immigrated to my promised land,
flowing with dog kibble and lots of paper to shred for nests.
Within a week, the mice became like cousins with second families
from out-of-town, come to visit... for awhile.
I offered a treaty: eat all the kibble you want,
you can have the newspaper when I’m finished with it.
Don’t gnaw on stuff and please,
leave your droppings outside.
They gnawed holes in odd things.
Left droppings in the linens.
The final straw was in the pots and pans.
The mice had to go.
I borrowed a hav-a-hart trap. It didn’t work
despite my catch and release reverse pied piper dreams.
They ate the bait without tripping the trapdoor.
I would set the trap as hair trigger fine as I could,
only to have the door shut on my arm
as I rebaited the trap. Again.
This went on for days.
For one hectic moment, I was every xenophobic conspiracy theory fanatic
and this was a horde of aliens storming the walls of my castle.
My friend offered me a spring trap, snaps their backs, kills ‘em quick
but I thought they were too violent.
I bought the pretty blue pellets in the bright yellow box.
A week later there was a mouse dying in the middle of the floor.
This wasn’t clean at all.
The mouse gasped and seized, I thought about what poison does.
Whacked the mouse with a shovel, to end its misery, or mine.
If only this were enjoyable, like some bloodsport.
I could do a transference, I could dismantle Disney,
lash and whack at every distasteful thing in this world.
I could go on crusade, get good at killing them.
Boil the dead bodies until the flesh and fur falls off the bones,
string the skulls around my neck, bang on floors and walls
with a stick and sing, “It’s a small world after all....”
But it was only a mouse and getting rid of the body a new chore.
I wrapped the mouse in a linen napkin. Buried it with a handful
of acorns and an autumn bright leaf. It would have been happier
in the woods, it could have lived like a character from Beatrix Potter,
leaf for a sunshade, acorn drinking cup, friends with garden sized adventures.
I buried the mouse uphill of my water supply.
There is a smug satisfaction in the stupidity of that.
Consider my guilt baited.
More of Valerie’s poetry may be found on mothwing.com.
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