She went to New York. Knew why.
Seemed the world was bigger than
that little town at the edge of sea
and strand and sky.
She went to school. Didn’t know why,
it was just what ladies did. Ladies also
met a guy their freshman year
and dropped out their sophomore year
to be his wife.
She met a guy. An Italian guy but
what the hell, he was in law, aren’t
we all American now? Her Beatnik friend
tried to warn her — said he had a girl
back in Italia. She listened but didn’t
listen because that’s what ladies did.
She met the guy’s friend. He
worked as a chef in a French restaurant.
Should’ve been in law. Had the degree.
The firm had only taken one, for the sake
She got pregnant. She scrambled. Her
belly began to swell. The guy
slapped her across the face and
called her a whore. His friend
took her home to Norfolk, showed her
a plot of land that could be theirs.
Told her he’d be hers. Bought a ring.
Put it on her finger.
She made her choice on a night of great
darkness. Chose the tree-lined suburban
street. Chose the quiet suburban
home. Chose the word of
law. Chose material love because
that’s what ladies do.
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Notes on “Material Love”
This poem is inspired by my study of the 1950s and the Cold War era, which was a time of great conformity. The root of modern American consumerism also likely lies in the 1950s.
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