Unmasked and masked

I didn’t mean to hate
coffee, but as it happens that hate makes me happy.
I love tea, teapots, cups and cozies.
I didn’t anticipate my penchant for noncompliance,
didn’t plan to be a renegade.
But as each thing came up it seemed I swerved,
and then bore down, finding over and over the little pockets
of lesser population, until fixation on various defections
proved to rule me, make me iconoclastic.

Take the veil, for example—wearing one
that trailed behind a long white gown
as my hand was nestled in my father’s arm,
ready to be given away to someone who’d want much more of me . . .
absolutely not!
I eloped. In an orange dress.
If I would choose to have two children, never more,
I’d be damned sure my birth control was truly efficacious,
not dependent on the whims of law-creating, law-enforcing
(mostly Christian, and misogynistic) guys.
Had them tied, my tubes.

I didn’t mean to hate coffee, or anything, anyone—
so much I love! My books, my cat and daughters, friends, partner, solitude, a free-and-easy, just-comfortable-enough life.
Didn’t mean to hate, but I know when and whom
to hate, and that I do. Without a single act of violence.
The time is now. Who, what? Three can keep a secret
if two of them are dead, said Ben Franklin,
political philosopher, campaigner for colonial unity.

This poem unmasks, and secret-keeper like me, it masks.

Jacquelyn Shah


Jacquelyn “Jacsun” Shah A.B. & M.A. English; M.F.A., Ph.D. English literature/ creative writing–poetry. Publications include a chapbook: small fry (Finishing Line Press 2017); full-length book: What to Do with Red (Lit Fest Press 2018); individual poems in various journals; and winner of Literal Latté’s Food Verse Contest in 2018.

© 2021