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"When the What Ifs Turn into Nows" by Maud Lavin

What if I stayed up as late as I wanted to every night

and slept in as late as I wanted to each morning.

What if I wrote an eco-novella with more mermaids

and jokes than pollution data and activism.

What if I dressed up in reds head to toe, the next day

maroons and my flowered velvet pants, to go to the café.

What if I invited all the Midwest writers I like from northern Wisconsin

to southern Ohio to read at my Chicago READINGS series.

And then with some of them, well, we become pals.

With others, I just wave them on their way, Midwestern nice.

I hear all of them, and sometimes read my own work, too.

What if I refuse to use the phone, texts and emails only.

What if I only hang out in places where races mix,

Jazz Showcase, Printers Row Wine Bar, 57th Street beach,

because it feels better, and my whole body relaxes.

What if I swim in Lake Michigan, worship the Lake, make love 

to the Lake, stroke the Lake, splash the Lake, duck my head under.

What if I’m unafraid to tell people how much I love their writing,

when I love their writing, and I enjoy reading them.

What if I tell Bruce how much I love him and what a slut he is,

every day, he is that beautiful, inside and out.

What if I keep in touch with my old friends,

my hometown neighbor since I was five and she was six, 

my boyfriend in second grade,

the twins I hung out with in high school.

What if I decide to forgive my Ohio hometown and embrace it,

even while it shrinks back into the cornfields.

What if I keep and make friends of different ages, 

because life is more interesting that way.

What if I love to write, so I do, and edit a little on the side.

What if I go to readings around town, listening and reading

my own work, shy, but feel glorious while performing.

What if I mask at gallery openings, daring to be uncool.

What if I leave my hair gray, undercut, and weird.

What if I eat my sliced fruit with cocoa powder on it,

and get it everywhere. And am cocoa scented.

What if I have way less money, but zero faculty meetings to attend.

What if I sleep better at night, and more, 

and read more mysteries. What if I go for a walk each day,

using my walking sticks. What if I’m old and I use that

to know life is short and devote mine to love, Lake Michigan,

cocoa powder, friendship, laziness, writing, readings.

What if you come visit Chicago, read at my READINGS series at the wine bar,

dress up any way you feel like, and have a latte with me after at the café?

A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Maud Lavin writes creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. She has published recently in BULL, Cowboy Jamboree, Reckon Review, Roi Fainéant, JAKE, Icebreakers, BRIDGE, Heimat Review, and Harpy Hybrid, and earlier in the Nation, Harper’s Bazaar, Slate, and other venues. One of her books, CUT WITH THE KITCHEN KNIFE (Yale UP), was named a New York Times Notable Book. Her other books include CLEAN NEW WORLD and PUSH COMES TO SHOVE, both MIT Press, and three anthologies. Her writing has appeared in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, Dutch, Finnish, and Spanish, as well as English. This fall Cowboy Jamboree Press will publish her chapbook SILENCES, OHIO. She is a 4-H alumna and a Guggenheim Fellow. She taught at the School of the Art Institute for 22 years, and works now as a freelance editor.


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