Here’s my newest poem, written 3/20/2015, and performed at BAAD: Bronx Academy of Art and Dance, inside St. Peter’s Church in Westchester Square, Bronx — the neighborhood I grew up in — This poem is dedicated to Mary Capotorto, Lucia Petruzzelli Doyle, Rosa Marsico Petruzzelli, and all the tough Bronx women we’ve all cared for and buried, now and in the years to come.
Butch for Hire
by Annie Rachele Lanzillotto
If I was a little old lady, I’d want a butch caregiver.
Butches are vigilant as a German Shepherds,
they sleep with her ears cocked
on call 24/7,
they follow you to the bathroom in the middle of the night
clear your path. You are Queen.
A butch will tuck you in at night with a well-spread blanket,
say prayers with you in whatever language you speak
hug you, rub your back and feet,
keep your toes from curling up on one another,
straighten each toe,
kiss you on the forehead,
get up the moment you awaken,
cover your shoulders when the blanket wanders low at 2:43 a.m.
offer a strong arm for you to hold onto, to walk, to stand,
tote your oxygen tank
support you out to the car,
help you breathe.
Open the windows, open the jars,
take out trash, make coffee,
organize your meds, organize your doctor appointments,
take you to all the doctors and celebrate each day,
wait for you to apply your lipstick,
A butch will stuff your peppers!
And butches do wound care.
A butch will walk in front of you
when you’re coming down the stairs,
behind you when you’re walking up,
on the curb side when you’re next to the street
and switch side to side when you’re in a big parking lot.
A butch will hold your hand,
tell you you’re gorgeous.
warm up the car
have a wool lap blanket ready in the passenger seat,
click your seatbelt for you,
scent the car with rosewater,
play Sinatra Lady Luck and cruise you all around town.
A butch’s car is your private basinet.
Butches cook and clean as good as any femme,
do windows, open doors, garden, make chicken soup,
give baths and gets the water the right temperature,
scrub all you need,
A butch has access to women’s bathrooms,
but will take you into the men’s room when necessary.
A butch knows all the shortcuts,
can drive any kind of vehicle,
with wheels or wings or sails or motors
Butches are good with drills, saws, shovels, picks, awls,
screwdrivers, hammers, nuts and bolts, all kinds of wrenches.
Butches will let you try to teach them to sew, knit, crochet, iron!
A butch will watch your game shows with you.
Keep the conversation light, play cards.
A butch will catch you when you fall.
Yes, if I was a little old lady I’d want a butch caregiver.
And I’d give my butch time off, a door to close,
a day to stay under the covers to cry and just feel safe.
Caretakers a telling word.
There’s the one that gives care then there’s all the takers.
Vultures on the sidelines, ready to swoop down to pick the carcass of the house,
all the antiques, rings, charm bracelets, Lionel trains, Hummel statuettes.
And a butch comes equipped.
Their belts double as harnesses
to will support you when you walk.
catch you when you fall.
Their belts double as a weapon to keep your attackers at bay.
a flag if you ever get lost.
a perimeter setter for when you need space to breathe.
A butch can snap you back to the present moment
when you lose your train of thought
or are tempted to float away away.
Bottle openers on their keychains, pocketknives, all in one tools.
Some go further –with Brass Emergency Trach Kits.
A butch will open an airway when you can’t breathe.
You screw this into this,
wipe a little spit or betadine
and puncture the crichoid process,
You should all know where this place is.
A little piece of cartilage that can save your life.
Feel for your adam’s apple.
Just below there’s an indentation,
This is where you go in.
This is where your life will be saved.
Hand sanitizer is just the beginning.
A butch carries pink pills to settle your nerves,
blue pills to lift your spirits,
green herbs to open your lungs,
sterile oxygen tubing,
the universal key to open all oxygen tanks,
flu masks for when you’re around someone with a cough.
Butches do wound care.
A butch will catch you when you fall.
stand behind you on your deathbed,
Call and sing the Ave Maria,
as your skull portal opens
and your soul revs and spirals,
the silver helix soul!
And call your name when your last breath’s gone.
Call your name
when your last breath’s
through the Bronx you left behind.
copyright Annie Rachele Lanzillotto 2015