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Supposition Poems

Poems collected from participants in Dave Johnson’s 10*10*10 Video Workshops.

Episode 5: Audre Lorde & Supposition

I am supposed to say, Don’t ever call me again,
when I see your name
arrive in my phone,
I try to hang up
but voicemail betrays me
like a thief in my own heart—

—Dave Johnson

Coming Out in Oklahoma
I’m supposed to say
I think Brad or Jason
is hot
that I want to lick his abs
have his babies
make him a sandwich.
But I never really got it
until that one night
she pulled me into a bathroom
to show me a mirror
and kissed me hard.
Then I got it.

-Julia McConnell

They say every time we remember something, our neural pathways find new ways to forget whatever that something is…but this proves that wrong—and still I have nothing for you

I’m supposed to say that because you weren’t “the one,” that I could do with your feelings whatever I wanted.
But to this day I see you hunched over, walking away from my house
that New Year’s Eve crying and crying until I felt your shudders
and sobs long after you turned the corner and
I couldn’t see
And for all the times I’ve gone over that moment, recounted it
to myself trying to find all the answers I never caught then,
I see nothing has changed.
It’s just now I have what you had then—
the ability to explain how my vulnerability
is savaged and wrecked and trampled.
But, no, I still don’t have any answers
for us.

-Garth Ferrante

I Am Supposed to Say
Sorry, to a kid,
if I hit somebody.

Thank You, to Mommy,
and then say, Your Welcome.

Hello Sir, to Master Q,
at Taekwondo class.

Alexa! When I want music.

Goodnight, at bedtime,
and I Love You, and
See you in the morning!

-Jacqui Andre Fabri-Baksh (Age 3.5+)

I Am Supposed to Say
we are not Stuck Inside,
we are Safe Inside.

I am supposed to say
we are blessed
to have an inside to stay in,
frozen food to thaw,
no bombs, our breath.

And, yes, I agree
with all these things,
but, instead, I want to say
we are all astronauts,

each in our own ship,
worshipping a rectangle
screen, sending messages
back to the planet
we used to Love on.

We are astronauts floating
in a black space
looking for a new star
to spend our wishes on.

When we find it,
we will ask for simple
things: a world without
doorknobs, a glove
that feels like human
skin, and a silent
clock. No more tick-tocking.
We will count time by
the thump sound, the beat
of our own blood.

-Erica Fabri

I Am Supposed to Say

I am supposed to say
That I can love and forgive
That I can see and feel
That your suffering has no will
That you ride God’s tsunami
Without having bought a ticket
Both of us bound to wash up
On the same shore.
But the voice I hear
Whispers in convincing tongues
Of superiority
Telling me that
We nee to avoid
Harsh weather
To explore the depths of the oceans.

All the best,
-John Clifton
MD Candidate, Class of 2023
University of Maryland School of Medicine

I am supposed to say
You should go
You must go into happiness
It is the only way
It should not leave a you-shaped shadow in my kitchen
And when I drink that tea we used to drink
I still sometimes see that singing shadow
Though years have fuzzed the edges and your voice has slipped to silence

-Vivian Tedford

How Are You?

I am supposed to say
I’m fine
and how are you

I am supposed to smile
and you’re fine, too

I so need you to say
no, really,
I want to know

how are you?


I know this is later and you’ve moved onto other things. But just in case…
Thanks again for the 10 10 10. May there be others!

I was supposed to say

Yes, make me a sandwich, please my love. You’re the best honey, sugar, sugar daddy. Yes, I will cook your dinner and wash your clothes. Yes, the kitchen is my faery castle, yes you’ve got a wonderful head of hair. Yes I love you anyway. Yes I wouldn’t have it any other way, yes your smiles are heaven, yes you’re a creature of the jungle. Yes, what other man can curl my straight hair with his wonderful fingers, yes I’m only yours. Yes, your world has doors. Yes, you can come and go, to and fro. Yes, yes I love your manhood, yes, I am yours. Yes, yes. Yes!


Humph. I don’t want no man making me a sandwich. Mansplaining about taking two slices of bread and slapping something in between. They make a mess with the mayonnaise, strew bread crumbs on the floor that I have to clean, splash the juice with the little seeds of the tomatoes over their shirt and I’m the one to wash it out. I don’t want no lunch from you. bragging about culinary skills that I have to hear about for years to come. Decanting his own praises. Not made with those wandering hands, waxing about the silkiness of store-bought tahina on wonder bread. Just because he once made a sandwich.

-Lenore Rosenberg

Supposed to

I am supposed to say
it was so funny to see your face
On a cereal box, chocolate somethings
that someone had abandoned in a kitchen
cupboard on the Cote d’Azur.

I am supposed to say,
and then after, when it happened again,
this time in Paris, where we had been together,
when you would come across the Channel,
should say it was like a sign, that I should call?

I am supposed to let you know how funny
and delightful it was to see your face again,
a photo from long ago, our youth,
comic and entertaining and marvelous,
what a fool, that was not like what was like with us.

Why choose that old and blurry photo,
I might say. I couldn’t say “I might well be with someone else,
as long as you aren’t here?” Did you ever imagine
that twice your “product” and your face
would be hiding in a cupboard, awaiting me,

catching me unawares, sending me into reveries that
we might talk again, and laugh, and fall into
what feels so familiar? Had you forgiven me,
had you forgotten all about me, had you never forgotten me,
had it never been the same with another?

Or was it always the same, over and over,
and you could never get it right, and never resist
another time, another offer, the picking up and dropping?
I am supposed to say how wonderful it is to hear your voice, and
laugh in a way that might cause you agony, or not, I am so sorry to say.

-Devin Dougherty

I’m Supposed to Say
I’m supposed to say it’s all good.
The worry, the hurt, the anger.
The time replaced by coping,
Putting out fires,
Jumping at the ping of a text,
Or at the single word, “Ma”.

It’s all good. You have a disease.
This disease makes you manipulate, lie, and take without giving.
It keeps you in this place and pulls you in deeper.
You take me in deeper and I carry the scars.

But, you smile that smile,
Say and do the right things,
Even apologize.
And for a day, or even two, it is all good.


Long Marriage
I’m supposed to say
I’m less excited to see you at the end of a day your slapstick
humor like a child trying too hard your grievances
as familiar as my own face

but I was never one
to understate the bulk and breadth
of thirty-eight years
your jokes melt my calcified arteries
and your nightly reappearance heats
the tiles on the floor

Now I don’t mind the barbs
from behind countertops, grease
spilling every now and again
but you won’t catch me slipping
out the door when half of everything
Is you.

-Linda Hillman Chayes

A response Poem from Audre Lorde’s Poem “And Don’t Think I Won’t Be Waiting.”
I’m supposed to say it’ll be all right
I’m supposed to say stay well and safe
safe from fire flood and plague
safe from every humans’ touch
touch can kill with just one swipe
touch can fill your dreams at night
night will never be the same
night will keep you safe and clean
clean and scrub while you stay sleeping
sleeping that will never stop
sleeping stops the edge of nightmares
nightmares come in waves of red
nightmares shed their poison darts
darts that pin you to the bed
darts that pierce you through the heart
hearts that only stop when broken
hearts that break when nightmares end.

-Chaucer Cameron

I am supposed to say…..
I am supposed to say….
Life can never be the same
Mostly without you….
But look how my life has
turned out!
My should’s have been eaten
As though by a virus
And have emerged into a
fresh new could.
My withouts have been stolen
by a bird I have not seen in ages
And brought me within
When I look into the extra
clean pond on my walk this morning,
I saw a ME
On my! Is this really supposed
to be me!

-Monika Rohila

I’m Supposed to Say
The customer is always right,
and apologize for other people’s ignorance.
But they say I’m a Scorpio,
and Irish to boot,
so my mouth sometimes strikes first,
full of black pepper and brine.

-Meara Levezow

All We Have
I am supposed to say
everything will return
back to normal,
but I’m not sure
it will or should.
All we have is today;
the air and blood
that circulates
in our bodies,
the longing for another’s
embrace or kiss
that circulates
in our souls.
We took for granted
that it would always be,
as we rushed through the mundane
of places, bodies, and life.
As all life became currency,
swept up in the rapids
of our own image,
the world becoming
a blur in the background
of our own theatre of security,
of endless growth and greed.
We have forgotten to cherish,
to understand the ground
which made us
and to which we will
one day return.

-Sherese Francis

You Don’t Want to Know
I am supposed to say I understand
things work out for the best and the
universe has its reasons whether the rest
of us agree or not. I am supposed to allow
your words to melt over us like a conspiracy
of camaraderie, forging us together
as if we consent
to being on the same side of fortune. But
good intentions don’t necessarily make
good consolations and how do you think
you would feel if you lost your child? I don’t
think you want to know and there’s rain
in the truth of it.

-Deborah Purdy

I am supposed to say that I miss you,
And I do, more than either of us could have
Ever imagined–
Your warmth, friendship and caring,
And your polestar focused on the one who matters most.
With all that is going on,
Perhaps I’m not supposed to say that I miss you,
But let myself know that I do.

-Nayana Hein

I’m supposed to say that
it doesn’t matter it’s all okay
but when the night comes
and i’m alone with shadows
on the wall made all my suppose
to’s flicker away

-Jill Weinstein

I am supposed to say
Sorry we drifted apart
But I lie
You plunged an arrow
Through my heart
Bled profusely
Still on the mend
Afraid to be broken again

-Sophie Tucker

I am supposed to say
I am supposed to say
yes, I will be there and
yes, I will help set up and
yes, I will help clean up and
yes, I will greet, speak, read, sing, bring…
yes, I will do it–
from kindness of my heart.
But I can no longer fight the
no more
buried alive deep
inside me
burning like
inside walls
you live
your dreams
not mine–
I will
No more!

-Kiswana Dee

“It’s funny, isn’t it?”
I’m supposed to say, “I’m Over Him”.
What woman in her right mind
would have feelings for a man who couldn’t treat her the way she wanted?
A woman with self respect
would find a way to be prettier than ever,
go on to write a best-selling book,
travel to Tulum and pose with her
sculptured body
draped in breathable and wet fabrics from purifying waters.
She is baptized and new.
Only the sun kisses her now.
Taken photographs of her narrate
ever so cooly that
she is someone worth missing.
And he will finally see that
she is beauty
and sensual.
This is not a woman who dare think about man who does not deserve a place in her heart.
She is perfectly capable of taking in life with eyes that witness loveliness and
breaths that gush joy
emancipated of thoughts of him.
Over and over –
to my family and friends,
over and over –
to the trees that shed and bloom , the changing skies , the birds that come and go
Over and over-
to new lovers that i open up to,
Over and over-
At dawn and night
Over and over-
On a still snowy day and on a picnic in Central Park with the breeze,
Over and over-
To myself,
I say “I’m over him”.

-Karen Pangantihon

Although this is my first submission, have really been enjoying this series, especially during this time of hardship. If there was any way to do an encore, without putting anyone in harms way, I know myself and a couple others who would support it.

Looking Up
I am suppose to say
I’ve always loved you although
I didn’t understand the word.

When to appreciate a sky that will
only change
where to learn of gratitude for
sleet and stains.

Parents have many roles to play,
A seedling has just one.
Growing through storms, they may
Not know until they’re done.

-Luke Brenner

I am supposed to say
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
After all, sticks and stones can break my bones,
But words can never hurt me.

But when you said
That thing you said
About me,
Acid burned in my stomach.

My eyes stung terribly
And for days afterward,
The critic in my head
Used your words
As a tool
To chip away at me

Until I had shrunk
Inside myself
To hide away
From the ache
Your words caused me.

Now, I don’t mind
You having an opinion,
No matter how blunt
The words you use to
Express it

But I am warning you:
When you spread misery,
You could do irreparable harm

Especially to those
Who has been hurt too many times already,
Who have no more space to hide.

—Kori Cooper

Waiting for an Apology
after Audre Lorde
I am supposed to say
I’m sorry I haven’t gotten
back to you; I’ve been busy,
but the truth is I didn’t
know what to say.
No, the truth is I knew
what I wanted to say
would hurt you, and I didn’t
want that to be the reason
we’re no longer friends.

-Robert Grant

10-10-10 is a lifeline at this time of fear and sadness.
Thank you for the compassion and creativity of your work.


I am supposed to say
I’m sorry you’re dying
I will miss you and you did your best
But my mouth is dry and tied, my heart clings to my chest
You are blue gray against the sheets
And so much smaller than I see you in my mind’s eye and sense memory
This is our last chance
I kiss you lightly on your forehead and say bye-bye

-Shellie Winkler

The Visit
I am supposed to say
I loved your gift
And I did, as I stowed this well-meant china piece away
Until, or in case, you come again.
Then, I’ll unwrap it anew,
Carry it by its cool, frilly edges to my Danish modern coffee table,
Admire its oh-so-pretty pink patterns,
And fill it with sweets.

-Janet Barnhart

i am supposed to say
that everything is all good, baby
but it is better
not to lie to you…
as what is inside us
must come out, eventually.

it ain’t no thang
that i see & feel
all of the bits & pieces
in all of the nooks & crannies
of this crazy world…
so let’s corral together
to create the future, now.

-Jade Fassbinder

No I’m Not
What I am supposed to say
Is that I am sorry.
Sorry that your new found love
Has floundered, the flame has
Flickered, the thrill is gone.
I hope you don’t expect this
Still smoldering ember of your
Careless arson to blaze up again
To warm your icy heart. Girl, it just
Ain’t going to happen.

-Gerald Harris

Solitary confinement
We have come to this predicament out of our control ,
Is this as severe as they say it is, or another distraction as a whole
My ancestors speak to me and reassure my curiosity
But all of this fear mongering is sure to take a toll
The blessings hidden in being forced to stay inside
Are yours to cherish, family presence, and social suicide.
Still there is more to the story of this “virus”
Old manipulation techniques on papyrus.
The human being Longs to develop and advance
Tumultuous silence this time we are detached
Control of the sentients will soon crash the tides
I know there is more to this than just “stay inside”

Water and Gatorade , replenish the sweat secretion
5 on 5 , competitors clash , “ who got next “
Is what they say after defeat
Remaining composed with the game tied and the ball in your hands ,
Only trees and air are the spectating fans ,
Even in the cold we behold the heat of spirit
On the court we argue and defer , off the court we are kindred spirits
No time limit only the sun and moon command
Passing the ball around it moves faster than a thought can leave my lips
Shooters were equipped they kept the gun on their hip
Never taking lives but killing egos in the gist
Real moments stored in me and my fellow cast
Reminiscing in the now of a moment from the past


I’m supposed to say
Everything will be fine—
Holding your small body in my large arms
Make you feel safe.

Who can feel safe in war?

I cook an egg for you.
My guts are in my chest
My heart is in my throat
There’s a blockade on appetite—
I smile.

But still you ask me:
“Are you worried Grandma?”


I’m supposed to say
     after Audre Lorde via Dave Johnson
I’m supposed to say everything will be alright and that I can pay for everything

I’m supposed to say my Mom and Dad can somehow take care of themselves, though they might need my help to order groceries online, and thank god my sister is there

But if I look at the statistics of life expectancy even in the best of times
I would call them every other minute and board the next non-existent plane
Or read with them over the phone
And inside me is screaming at the thought of them getting sick
and of never being to hold them again

Your name, when it arrives in my poem
bold as brass
makes me shudder
as many times as all the shutters
are pulled down over all the stores and restaurants in our neighborhood
and all the other neighborhoods some never to open again
squashed by corporate takeover
abetted by a silent viral bail out

I am supposed to say
it will all come out in the wash
but as a mom who has lived through several infestations
I know it’s not that easy

If this virus had glowing powder or glitter attached to it
I could wash it out
But for now I must act
As if everyone
Has been exposed as they probably have been
only some not enough to get sick

I am supposed to say
Just stay home
But I know that
If we don’t go outside in the future
To meet our neighbors
And take our lives literally in our own hands
To go to poetry readings
This temporarily strong immunity
I hold in my very washed hands
Will break down
Pale from under-exercise

The joggers of New York
Haven’t figured out how to yield the road

They spray their toxic broth my way
I am only searching for a little sun

And a flowering tree or two
as I drift
and then stand still
in the middle of
the Avenue

-Lee Ann Brown

I am supposed to say
that I am lonely
when nights are dark and
day doesn’t dawn soon enough.
Sometimes I wade through foggy darkness
for a moment lathered in longing
And wait longer
‘til from solitude sprouts sweetness–
Drink the nectar ‘til my tooth
grows black and sore, I’m
ravenous for more, but the doorbell chimes,
so perhaps I dare to let in the light. I might
welcome a neighbor
though my heart beats so fast that
it stops
proceed to turn the door latch
even if it unlocks
the trove of tranquility I call my home—
If I don’t make it to tomorrow
maybe it’s because I wasn’t alone

-Samara Huggins

The Hugs and Kisses I’m Supposed To Give
Out of the hollows of my feelings
of disconnection
when I am talked over and around
in a group of acquaintances
who think they are friends.
They run shallow, and fast
my stony thoughts
skipping off the surfaces
of their chat.

-Gina A. Turner

Oh hello
I’m supposed to say I’m ready…
in my head lives the girl
who denies this
beware, be wary of evitable pits that fall
oh hello, you. I know and thanks
but it won’t be long before
the door closes

Unless you’ve something new to say
I’ve heard that song before
Go ahead, right ahead
whistle the tune to yourself

it might be familiar and safe
a catchy little number
but I’m not dancing

open your arms
put a toe in the pond
we’ll be swimming before you know it

-Noreen Sanders

I am Supposed to Say
Those people are responsible
For their descent.
Their disenfranchised hopelessness
a product of lack of character, effort, motivation.
That their lot directly correlates with volitional failures & bad choices

That all doors were open to them;
The world their oyster that they turned their back on
That, all things being equal, they could have thrived

What you need to understand
Is that all things were not equal
That, were you in their shoes,
Had you faced their obstacles,
You, too, would have walked a path of descent
That their procession to Hades was preordained,
Before they even had the ability or option to choose

-Leslie Enzian

One of Those 26.2 Stickers You See Everywhere
I am supposed to say
it was never going to happen,
that knowing periwinkle was
a Crayola color or that Tori Amos once performed live at Constitution Hall in DC, was just another conversational canapé when we met in a convention center reception
full of those same circular plastic trays full
of foods that fit on a cocktail
held elbow high at forearm’s

I am supposed to say I would
never take
our years together to learn
you trained for marathons, that you could name ten types of sneakers, that you played piano for attention
to why you needed us
to survive our weddings,
to never tire of multigrain
waffles from the same booth in the same Upper West Side diner. I am supposed to
say that forgetting is better
than not forgetting. I am supposed to say
stay. Not go. Not leave. Not

-Austin S. Lin (San Francisco, CA)

Me Too
I am supposed to keep your secret
You say no one will believe me
Master of a special universe
you work your magic, hold
each planet in its orbit
All of us in the dark

-Joan Blessing

I am supposed to say
“Good morning, how are you today?”
to everyone
on my way to the bakery vis-a-vis.
Then someone
coughed behind my back.
An elderly woman
passed me too close
Surprised I turned.
She coughed again towards my face.
“You have to keep distance!,” she shouted!
“Your mask is no protection at all!”
She chuckled and went away.
I stood at the crossways and stammered
“But I do.”

Dear Dave,
I am not sure, if my contribution today could be called a poem. But it happened to me this early Sunday morning.
With best regards

I am supposed to say,
That I ll see you…
we ll meet again,
it won t be long-
our frequent phone calls won’t
go missing,
our visits while infrequent will go unnoticed.

I am supposed to say-
I ll be ok
I won’t miss your antics, stories or adventures
Your favors now not asked won’t leave a whole.

Your absence will not gut me
My heart will mend
That I won’t think of you daily and see you
in my dreams
Waking with a startle and thinking you re
still here.

Well, I can’t……
Your unexpected leaving has left me
broken with too many pieces to fully

And so, I wish you comfort, rest and eternal peace seeing you now in all your favorite hangouts
Knowing you are still there.

-Ellen Goldstein