Margaret McCarthy



I said I studied ukulele there, just the thing
to attract old millionaires on porches, rocking near the whisper
of palms on Florida beaches.

I had long dreamed about sheltering palms, someplace
absolutely warm and safe,
but even I could not believe the yacht –

a floating pleasure palace, like that unreachable place inside me,
a womb, to rock gently
back and forth in, on a sea that was not wine dark

but sparkling, like the endless champagne
I seduced him with, like the diamond bracelet that would be forthcoming…
“Milk”, I whispered through champagne cooled lips –

“I sold kisses for the milk fund”, effervescent
bubbles hiss like surf, flood the roof caves of our mouths,
his mouth filling magically

with my name, Sugar
the road, Sugar
the path to our magic dock,

the horizon line wine dark in the distance.


But my real strength was as a vocalist,
breasts rising and falling in the iridescent see-through
gauze that was my dress.

On the bandstand, how I thrilled
to those roses arriving, the clandestine meeting they portended,
their secret message hiding in plain sight; that night

I shivered in white fur
stole silver in the moonlight, feet rushing in small faery steps
high-heeled, tight-dressed, navigating

the dock’s bog-like planks,
skipping over their caution something queer was afoot,
no holding back —

And there he was;
motor purring, moon bathing
those million dollar looks.

How I rushed
to that meeting on the dark sea, how I sparkled
in his arms.


That kiss on the bandstand
gave the lie
to all our disguises.


At the wedding ceremony
I insisted on this promise:
never, ever, throw the coleslaw at me.

I made it one of our vows.
Now, I remember how at that first meeting I bragged to him
about my musical studies – the Sheboygan Conservatory – the lie,

the bluff working! “Good School!” he approved,
the joke, the ersatz millionaire,
the cross-dressing, down and out sax player

all on me –
our mutual fabrication
all so lovely.

Margaret McCarthy is a poet, playwright and photographer. Her poetry collection NOTEBOOKS FROM MYSTERY SCHOOL (Finishing Line Press, 2015) was a New Women’s Voices Award finalist.

Her poems have appeared in: The Pagan Muse: Poems of Ritual and Inspiration, Working Papers in Irish Studies, Cyphers Magazine (Ireland), The Albero Project (Italy)  Poetry New Zealand,  Gargoyle Magazine, HIV HERE AND NOW ON-LINE POETRY PROJECT, Braided Way Magazine, Home Planet News, Shaking Like A Mountain: On line Literature about Contemporary Music, California State Poetry Society Quarterly and Poets and Peace International.

Her  work has been performed in programs at La Mama Theatre, Poetic Theatre Productions, NYC,  The English Speaking Union of New York, The Hudson Valley Writers Association, and Irish American Writers and Artists (IAW&A) monthly salons at The Cell Theatre, NYC.

McCarthy works as a professional photographer in New York City; her photographs have been widely exhibited.

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