by Penelope Schott
1. I am at least 18 years old.
Lilliana works at a Starbucks.
Customers admire her smile.
Sometimes she winks for tips
but she still can’t make her rent.
She has dropped her art class
because it conflicts with her job.
Barista, Artiste, College Girl,
Lilliana rides two city buses
to get to the community college.
Monday on her way to class
she gave a dollar to the lady
pushing a shopping cart of rags.
2. I understand “women seeking men” may include adult content.
The shopping cart lady’s quilt
lies bunched in the alley, yellow
and stained. Lilliana remembers
daisies and Queen Anne’s lace
and how she and her little sister
lay crowned with daisy chains.
Lilliana was never an innocent:
even as a child she understood
how daisies could smell like pee.
She doesn’t dare ask her parents
for one more handout or loan
because her parents already think
she’s a fuck-up. The last time,
they made her sign a typed letter
promising to pay them every month.
and even their no-strings handouts
Come with advice. Maybe she is
a fuck-up. Maybe she’s just fucked.
4. By clicking on the links below, I release craigslist from any liability that may arise from my use of this site.
She can’t believe how easy it is.
Why doesn’t everyone do it?
One little ad and the men jump.
craigslist>personals>women seeking men
Bright, attractive college girl who
can’t afford to show you a good time.
I think I have it – what you need.
They get the hint. It’s like a date.
They both pretend. They are polite
and amazingly clean. It’s hard work
playing Girlfriend. Some so shy,
so awkward, clumsy moves or none.
Others normal, even good-looking.
5. It’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests.
And always these crisp new bills.
Do they go to the ATM before
or after they shower and shave?
Last night’s guy had big red hands
that reeked like shoe polish. Her tits
still hurt. Does the guy milk cows?
6. Choosing safer sex for you and your partner greatly reduces the risk of contracting STDs including HIV – you can get answers to your safer sex questions, courtesy of staff members at the SF city clinic.
To celebrate paying the rent,
she skips her shift at Starbucks
and types up her term paper:
Women and Social Welfare.
Her parents do their weekly call:
Lilliana dear, what do you want
for your birthday? A retirement plan.
A gift certificate for Victoria’s Secret.
A can of mace. Books, she tells them.
Barista, Artiste, Good Daughter.
She posts a new ad on craigslist
and waits. She can’t bathe enough.
Penelope Schott is an award-winning feminist poet and former professor of English. Her notable awards include the 2004 Turning Point Poetry Prize, the Orphic Prize, and Schott is the proud recipient of the 2008 Oregon Book Award for her collection of poetry titled “A Is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth.” She is also a New Jersey State Council for the Arts fellow. This poem comes from her new manuscript on prostitution.