Selected Poems





I know, I know, some days are

dark days,

troubled days,

bed days under blanket days.


Some days are

off days,

terribly out-of-sync days,

the universe is inside-out days.


Some days you CRUSH IT.

Most days you can feel

the spectacular heaviness of

the very air around you as it

presses through your skin and

pulverizes you to bone dust.



despite the planetary weight

bearing down upon your

incredibly fragile,

incredibly human shoulders,




You are RADIANT.

You are raw, uninhibited ENERGY.

You are EVERYTHING that is LIGHT and LIFE.


I know, I know, some days are

tough days,

crawling in the muck days,

fuck it all to motherfucking fuck days.


Some days are

muffled sobs in the shower days.

Others are imploding in front of the barista days,

losing your shit in the back of an Uber days,

straight-up toddler-style meltdown at the grocery store days.


Some days YOU’RE BOSS.

Many days you’re lost.



for all the wandering,

the floundering,

the sinking and the drowning,

the light at the end of the long tunnel IS YOU.



You are FIRE.




You are made

of the star-stuff of the cosmos.


And that makes you IMMORTAL.

That makes you INFINITE.

That makes you MAGIC.




You. Yeah YOU.

You child of star-fire, you

spreader of sunbeams, you

bearer of torches, you

embodiment of eternal flame, you

exquisite soul with the blazing aura,



Copyright ©2019 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

Wandering Woman, Defined


The Wandering Woman, they say, must be of the sea, of merfolk, of sirens, she is selkie, she,

who must always follow the call of the waves, the land cannot hold her. No, they argue, she is

like the wind, won’t be pinned, even to the water, she must fly, a bird, a wing-ed horse, a terrible

angel. NO, someone disagrees, she is an island, a fortress, the thing that keeps other things out

and away. For all her meandering, she lets no one in. NO! Another slams a fist on a conference table.

(Deadline approaches! They must come to a decision!) She is a child, a baby, if left to wander she

will toddle into a street, over a cliff. Someone must harness her, leash her, so she can earn paychecks

and attend dental appointments! BUT SHE ISN’T JUST ONE THING, she screams it inside and

sometimes outside too. She is the selkie, the wind, the child, and she’s happy on her island,

where no one understands her, the Wandering Woman, who is more

than just one thing, in a world too young for her, in a world too small.

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

Venus of Willendorf


I first met her in Art Appreciation. Art one-oh-one,

where the professor was young and fresh and

he’d only been teaching for two years so

he was still excited

about things.


I first met her there at

community college improving my GPA so

I could get into real school. It was nine years after

I’d run out of money and stamina

the first go-round. Since then,

I had gotten really good at pretending at

grown-up things.


The art class was because I needed

something easy. I also took Intro to Humanities and

World Regional Geography, and

I liked that I obviously knew more than

those teenage kids who hadn’t been anywhere or

done anything yet.


But Art one-oh-one made me feel I could be

an artist, even me,

who was always so good at telling stories, but who

couldn’t draw or paint or even mold play dough. And if,

because of this class, I could

do art, I could

do anything.


This bright-eyed professor, who seemed

too young to be called that, was really

an artist, but art didn’t pay the bills, and

if he had to have a day job, teaching

about art was maybe

the next best thing. I’m not sure if

I appreciated art more after the class

than before, but I never forgot that

tiny, bulbous, carved figurine.


I first met her early in the semester because

the professor taught art chronologically, and

she was practically the first art

ever made. Probably there were dozens

of photos in the slide show that day of

the cave paintings and stone carvings and

engraved bones of the Upper Paleolithic, but

I don’t remember

any of those.

The picture on the screen at the front of the classroom

made her look enormous, but she is actually only

eleven centimeters tall where she sits

in a museum in Vienna. You can buy actual-size replicas

in the gift shop made out of soap or

even chocolate. People all over the world

display the soap in their guest bathrooms because

it sparks conversations about their recent

European vacations. Someone might be eating

her delicious chocolate bosoms

right now.


From the moment I first saw her round, fertile belly and

disproportionately large breasts and

prominent lower lips I knew

she was something special. I wanted her

tattooed on my arm or maybe my own supple breast.

An actual-size replica, of course, the chubby little goddess,

she would wobble and bounce with my every step as if

on a miniature trampoline, a naked symbol for

sisterhood and

solidarity and

vaginal pride.


I wondered about

the artist. Did she consider herself

an artist? Was Stone Carving one-oh-one supposed to be her

easy class? Was she surprised when it inspired her to

do more with her life than hunt and/or gather?  Did she

shame her family by making art instead of

making babies? Was she proud

of her curly-haired goddess with the

teeny-weeny arms? Did she teach the cave children

to paint the walls and

sculpt with clay and

carve their own tributes to the gods because

she needed a day job to pay the bills? Did she

make other things? Did she sell jewelry and trinkets at the

prehistoric farmer’s markets? Was she

voluptuous like her limestone doll? Did someone

love her?


Once upon a time, someone

took a rock and,

with something hard and sharp, probably

a bone, shaped the rock into a fat little lady, and now,

thousands and thousands of years later, people

see the lady, the Venus, in a museum or in pictures

on the internet and wonder about

how hard life must have been for

skinny girls back then.

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.



(or What I Would've Said to the Woman at the Grocery Store Who Called Me a Dyke If She Hadn't Run Away)

If by dyke

you mean

a low wall meant

to guard against the floodwaters

of the sea or

those tricky memories that

surface at the worst times, then

you’re not wrong.


If by dyke

you mean

sandbags stacked high enough

to keep the rivers from                                         drowning the village or

the swells from

smudging my mascara, then

I would agree with you.


If by dyke

you mean

I can take a pounding

whether by hurricane winds or

patriarchy or

Mondays or

enthusiastic lovers, then,


you nailed it.


If by dyke

you mean that

even as I break

and crumble or

as I am swept away

by the waves, that

I can always be rebuilt

stronger, better next time, then

I thank you for

the compliment.


if by dyke

you mean

a causeway like

a raised path over

a marsh or a bog, then

it’s not so true because

I often forget to

take the high road,

you cunt.

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

The Bones Trickle Down

I didn’t know what I would find there

in the house that looked a little like the one

I lived in a hundred years ago, in that other life,

the one before this one where now I am

surprisingly well-adjusted, all things considered,

or so people say. I didn’t want to go back there,

but no one else did either, and I thought,

of everyone, I was strong enough, probably.

He wasn’t there anymore, after all, it was

just an empty house and who knows, maybe

there would be something worth something.

I didn’t know what I would find there, but maybe

I had some guesses, certainly cobwebs and a

thick layer of dust on all the furniture. Doubtless

there would be crusty dishes in the sink and

elsewhere and clutter all around and broken

things in need of fixing, and I was right. But I

couldn’t have guessed about Laundry Mountain

or Styrofoam River or the Great Wall of Old

Bicycles, and all of it makes me think of those

carnival games where you win a prize if you can

guess how many jellybeans there are in a giant

jar, and then I find a drawer of literal jellybeans.

And I never could have imagined the room of the

Newspaper City with years and years of daily

stories stacked as towering office buildings and

condominiums. Under a fallen skyscraper there are

bones that might have been still perfectly arranged

under the papers in cat-shaped formation, a

macabre shadow of the once-vibrant creature

sprawled in a strip of sunlight for an afternoon nap.

But when I disturb the papers, the bones trickle

down like twigs in a falling river. Beside the cat’s

skull there are smaller bones. The cat had chased

a rat through Newspaper City, and the epic tussle

had toppled a building and done them both in.

Amongst the newspapers and the bones, I cry for

a few minutes or maybe an hour, I’m not sure,

telling myself it’s because of the cat that’s been

dead for probably a decade. A cat died tragically

in a newspaper avalanche, and nobody noticed, and

it’s just so fucking sad. Really, if I think about it, the

rat’s story is even sadder because at least the cat

got a last meal. It’s for them I cry, and maybe that’s

true for the first thirty seconds, but then, it’s not.

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

Little Noses

velvet soft like roses

pink like peony

like sweet pea except

even flowers aren’t really quite

exactly that shade of pink


they wiggle deliberately

the round noses searching

the wind for sunlight

for warmth for



I have to pull the car

over to cry

the children wonder why

we’ve stopped

the oldest elbows

the one in the middle

thinks he’s clever

snidely whispers something

about mom getting her period


and maybe I am but

I weep now for blood

that’s not my own


I weep for babies for

stolen babies and for

their mothers

with their mothers while

my own little piglets

complain that

the car is getting hot


I open the windows and

we’ve parked next to tulips

right there by the highway

most are yellow or pink

like bubblegum


but some are lighter

softer shades

pink like noses

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.


She said I am free to choose to be free

I could be free like she is free, she said

That I only need to let go of the rest of the world


But I cannot understand how she got to that place,

so aware of herself, so familiar with her soul,

My goddess is too far away, I cannot reach her


I pulled the mask away, for a time, but it is tethered.

I am obliged to keep it nearby, for safety

I may have need to wear it in mixed company


She said I should wash it all away in the water

Obligations are manufactured, she said

Water is tangible

Water is life


And I want to accept her acceptance

And I want to believe in the water

And I want my spirit to soar out through my skin

If only the world would let go of me

Copyright ©2019 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

The House We Build

Let’s build a house of Legos


Not those off-brand bricks that don’t quite snap together let’s be rich enough to afford the real ones special-ordered in all the sizes even the big ones made for the toddlers so they don’t choke and all the colors even the glittery ones and every shape even the weird ones so we can make a garden

The Plastic Garden of Misfit Lego Parts

Let’s build a house of mazes

There’ll be surprises at every turn and the tunnels will stretch for miles and the children will go missing for weeks happily lost on underground expeditions and only you and I will know the way to our room the one in the high tower with a ceiling open to the stars and a proper view of the ocean

It doesn’t matter which one

Let’s build a house of books

With stairs made of science fiction and walls made of bedtime stories and the kitchen table will be one giant atlas so we can plan our vacations during dinner and some rooms will be just for reading adventures with wardrobes to Narnia and Neverland and Oz and Hogwarts and we’ll keep all the Sherlock Holmes in the Escape Room and there’ll be a stage for performing Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams

Meet me in the Poetry Room in the mornings

Let’s build a house of music

With literally every instrument ever made even like sitars and stylophones and pan flutes and bagpipes and we’ll have a live-in musician to teach us how to play them all and the pipe organ will take up the entire second floor and the massive jukebox will hold every song ever written and we’ll start a rock band in the garage

The dance parties will go on for days

 Let’s build a house of cities

We can photograph the different architecture in our pajamas and we’ll have pizza in the Rome Room and sushi in Tokyo and there’ll be rooms for lost cities like Atlantis and Pompeii and Machu Picchu and there’ll be a New York Room and a London Room and a Paris Room which we’ll have all to ourselves to explore

There won’t be any tourists

Let’s build a house of dreams

There’ll be a room for dreams of outer space and one where we can feast all day and never get fat and a room for serendipitous encounters with celebrities and one for dreams that are scary but in a good way and the attic will hold the flying dreams but we’ll lock the bad ones away in the basement

We’ll send the therapist there to evaluate them

The house we build

Will have rooms with only soft things for arguments and rooms full of costumes for make-believe and rooms for practicing languages and jiu-jitsu and rooms for baking cookies and making art and forest rooms where the birds and squirrels will live and rooms under the water for the manatees and dark rooms where the ghosts will live and rooms full of closets for the monsters

And everyone will have a room to keep their snacks in

And everyone will have a room to keep their secrets in

And the rest of the world won’t matter there

In the house of Legos and books

The musical house of mazes and cities

The house by the ocean that stores all the dreams

Where we’ll make love under the stars

And breakfast with the poets in the mornings

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

The World Breaks Everyone But

You're Never Gonna Keep Me Down

I once heard that Hemingway said we’re all

broken, that’s how the light gets in, which is

lovely, but Hemingway never said it. What


Hemingway said was the world breaks

everyone and afterward many are strong

at the broken places, which is also quite


inspirational except Hemingway went on

to say, rather darkly, those that will not break,

it kills and, I’m paraphrasing now, the world


kills everyone impartially no matter how

good or gentle or brave. Later, it was another

great poet, Leonard Cohen, who said there is a


crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light

gets in. Twenty years after that, some lady

merged the quotes together in a tweet. But this


absurd game of telephone actually started eight

hundred years ago with the Sufi mystic Rumi who

wrote something beautiful about a wound, and


that was, Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at

the bandaged place. That’s where the light

enters you. And it should be noted that Emerson


first said the thing about a crack in an essay in

1841. He wrote there is a crack in every thing

God has made, but he left it at that without any


hope of light getting in there. But, after all of that,

it was Chumbawumba who made the best point

because it doesn’t matter so much about cracks


or light as long as, after you

get knocked down, broken or

not, you get up again.

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

Elephant Ears

incredible plants, Technicolor,

Emerald City green, impossible leaves,

Jurassic, from before everything got so

much smaller, shelter for ground mammals

and garden gnomes and fairies, I watch

through trickles on windowpanes, a mouse

darts out from under, braving the drizzle, which

to her must be torrents, for the half-drowned

worm in search of higher ground, then,

with her wriggling meal, she returns,

the canopy creates a dry space, a secret

place for feasting, the rain tap tap taps

a lullaby, this day is meant for reading

and eating something warm and sweet


deep-fried cinnamon smells

cinnamon thoughts, the first yeasty bite,

dopamine explosion, endorphins compete

with sugar for space in the bloodstream,

eyes roll backward, lids fall just

almost closed, a shudder, a

not totally unsexual sound,

cinnamon lips after and, oh

I can see the carnival games, feel

the thick summer air, hear

the bluegrass band play in the square

at the state fair, and I remember

school trips to the zoo where they served

the confections in the African village because

it makes the most sense to eat them

in view of their namesakes


the gray giants, their own ears like sails,

like wings, for flying across golden oceans,

and it seems they are probably soft

like suede, like velvet and, oh

to walk beside them in the wild, the lords

of the savannah, to watch the children

chase the birds, to laugh at the noses they

haven’t quite gotten used to yet, the

floppy ears, twice the width of their round bodies,

a calf trips and takes a tumble, but mother is only

steps away, she coos and soothes, she

kisses boo-boos as the little prince steps

on an ear and falls again, baby mine,

don’t you cry, baby mine, you’ll grow into them


and he might, but she won’t see, the queen,

the matriarch, who has lived long enough

to birth five others, she has lived

long enough to grow enviable incisors,

titanic tusks, the pride of the herd, they

match her roar in strength, in might,

in venerable royalty, she earned that

crack in the left one like she earned those

scars on her shoulder, like she earned

the bullet encased in her ample rump

the last time they came, but she was

younger then, and guns are bigger now,

and desperation breeds savagery


two sisters are down before they know

what’s happening, and the babies are screaming,

the air smells of blood and panic, and she tries,

this queen mother, to gather the young ones

behind her, to face her foes, to charge them

like before, but she doesn’t see them, they

are too far, the cowards, hiding behind rocks,

so she trumpets retreat, and her family scatters,

the other mothers and the aunts herding the calves

before them, but she stays, her majesty,

roaring her anger, stomping her loathing

into the dirt until she feels something


brush against a leg, her youngest child too scared

to leave her side, he cries and she reaches down

instinctively to comfort him, she turns to shield

him, she takes fire, twice in her side, so he is safe,

a third bullet hits a kneecap and she falls,

the baby screams as the ground shakes, a final

shot passes through an ear, finds her neck,

the calf runs circles around her until she

calls him close, the familiar rumble draws him in,

she raises her trunk, lifts a bloody ear as the

African wind carries her final heartbeats

to her ancestors, and the little prince nuzzles

underneath, his own ears flat against his

shoulders, he cries, but mother is there,

baby mine, dry your eyes, baby mine,

you’ll be just fine, except she can’t know

if that’s true, and so I

cry too, fat

elephant tears, lament


the broken kindred, mourn

the great loss the world

has suffered because

I do know


that somewhere it has happened,

is happening,

will continue to happen,


and I used to wonder why I am so

affected, why I feel



around me for thousands of miles, why

I can’t just write about plants

or pastries without drawing

tragic parallels, why


my own ears throb with the sounds

of their cries, why

their pain becomes my pain and



it stirs within me such

passion, such

outrage, such



for humankind, but now I wonder why

there are so few of us

who use our ears

for listening

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.


miniature philosophers

teachers of existentialism

every waking moment truly


laughter so


fury so


inclinations so


dimples so


would that I could be

so thoroughly


as to fall to the sidewalk

on purpose

eyes huge and bright


mouth agape

cartoon underwear

unabashedly on display

just to point at the beetle with the

green wings that sometimes

shine purple in the


Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

They Tingle as They Float Through

We were almost exactly the same age, twins practically,

metaphorically. Born fifteen days apart, I came under the

sign of the Crab, ruled by the moon and twice as fickle, she

was a Lioness of Leo, brazen as the sun. And when I died,

a little of her fire went out, I know, because I saw it go.


We’d lived our childhoods a few miles apart, never once

meeting until adulthood. We’d both spent our summers in

the salty Atlantic waves, our winters wishing for snow days

that rarely came. Of all those Virginia State Fairs and Pungo

Strawberry Festivals and Nags Head vacations and school


trips to Jamestown, had we ever waited in the same

restroom queue? Maybe she was the feisty redhead who

beat me to the unicorn on the carousel that one time. Maybe

we’d each bought a cotton candy from that stand at the zoo,

the one by the camels. White Dogwood blossoms. Jet noise.


Hand-cooked peanuts. Tunnel traffic. Emotionally

dysfunctional families. We eventually forgot that we hadn’t

actually grown up together. And when I died, parts of her

died too, I know, because I saw them leave. I was dreaming

when it happened, when death came, and the transition was


smooth, seamless, because I was flying in the dream and

suddenly, I am flying to her, and there she is, asleep in

her own bed, a thousand miles from where I started, and I

think how lovely to dream of her, to be here after so long.

And then a dog is licking my hand, and I recognize him,


the dog that died last year, her dog, now wagging an

ethereal tail and licking my ethereal hand, and I see the

dream for what it is. And I look at her, I really see her there,

somehow sleeping tangled up in the sheets, impossibly

contorted, blissfully snoring, drooling a dark spot on the


 pillow, beautiful. And her aura, of course it’s pink, obviously,

the brightest fuchsia, glowing like northern lights, pulsing a

little and sounding electric. And it isn’t strange at all that I’m

here because we always were like magnets, and I realize,

now, that the pull, the persistent tugging, had always been


there, underneath everything, even before we met, but I’d

been stuck, nailed down or glued to the ground, weighted,

tethered. In the morning, the phone rings, and she wakes to

see my number on the screen, and she smiles. But someone

else’s voice speaks when she answers, and I watch as the


light leaves her face. Then her aura dims and changes from

pink to silvery-gray and, at the same time the glass screen of

her phone shatters on the hardwood, so does she. And there

they go, some of the broken pieces, like she’s a dandelion

gone to seed.  I reach out with my dead hand to catch them,


but I’m not made of anything real anymore. They tingle as

they float through. I look down at her there, on her knees

on the floor, and I wonder if she can sense the head of the

ghost dog on her shoulder. And I know now that I’ll never

be able to leave her, that this will be my hell, to face the


memory of the day she gave me her heart, her bright eyes

scared but resolved, hopeful that I could be as brave as she

was. To replay over and over the words I should have said

then but didn’t. To scream apologies she’ll never hear. To

finally tell her after all this time, much too late, that yes,


I love her too.

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

Italian Language School

Sweet peaches in the marketplace
on my way to school,
seventy-five euro-cents each.


Afternoon snack from the gelato shop
under umbrellas on the sidewalk.
Every day was sunny.


Hours of learning in between.
My non capiscos became fewer
by the end of the summer.


Signora asked once,
“Quali cose ami?”
What things do you love?


What did I love?
What Italian nouns did I know?
“Amo le pesche, il gelato, il formaggio…”


Signora shrugged and nodded.
She next asked,
“Che cosa odi?”


What did I hate?
What Italian nouns did I know?
“Odio le cipolle, i pomodori, la pancetta…”


“No, no, no,” said Signora.
“Non capisci.”
I did not understand.


Odiare – hate – is too strong.
You dislike onions. Non ti piace tomatoes.
You hate poverty, evil, war…”


Did I hate war?
Did I really feel more strongly
about bacon than evil?


I think I just did not know
the Italian words for those.
And it was time for lunch.

Copyright ©2015 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.

Self Portrait 2017

I don’t know how to answer

the hair color question for my driver’s license because

like the rest of me my hair isn’t just one thing

it’s got blonde strands and red strands and brown strands

and I even found a black strand once

thicker and coarser and curlier than the others

an alien monster hair

I’ve also got one of those growing from my left eyebrow

as if a loose pube from the bed latched on there but

no matter how often I pluck it out it always returns

if it disappeared I think I would be a little sad


soon there might be gray strands too and

I’m totally cool with that because one day

I’ll rock my long silver mane

I’ll wear it loose and free

wild and free like old ladies should be

and when people tell me I should cut it short

and stop wearing Chuck Taylors and finally

grow up already I will unapologetically

point my middle fingers to the heavens as I

dance away my faded wrinkled tattoos

jiggling on my sagging arms and the nearest

twenty-somethings will think they can’t wait

to be that awesome but of course I have to

survive my thirties first


is there a support group for tragic queers who are

in love with their straight BFFs like I can’t be

the only one who proposed in the middle of Starbucks

and spent an excruciating five seconds watching her face

in hopeful anticipation until she laughed because she thought

I was joking I can’t be the only one who after realizing

it wasn’t going to go the way I’d daydreamed it

quickly changed the subject and started
munching a literal muffin instead

I can’t be the only one who has nobody to talk to

about those feelings because she’s the one

I talk to about feelings so maybe

I should start a club for us


that wasn’t the first time I’d taken that risk

not even the second or third time I’d emptied out my heart

poured my words directly into someone’s mouth to devour and

subsequently vomit out as sympathetic apologies and it probably

won’t be the last time either because my love is volatile my

attachments are all-consuming according to some doctor

I am prone to addictions and impulsive behaviors


well-intentioned mornings are something else by lunch

that bag I packed last night with the cranberry juice

and the celery stalks it can wait

until tomorrow

the vegan place around the corner serves

huge portions of mackincheese and the best

seriously the absolute best

double chocolate chip cookies


there are no secrets when you wear your failures

on the outside

if my vices didn’t weigh so much didn’t

cost so much would I feel compelled to

investigate the causes to

delve inward to

force myself to face my—I hate the cliché

as much as you do but there’s just no other term

for it—daddy issues (gag)


speaking of childhood I never really did until I started

writing poetry and it was like what the actual fuck

where is this coming from how is it possible

that I never once thought of the time that asshole

laughed at me in my prom dress

until I was in the middle of writing about

the Venus of Willendorf

seventeen years later


and now as I put pen to paper there’s as much fear

as there is excitement over what’s going to spill

onto the page but it’s like picking at a scab or

pulling at the edges of my cuticles it’s somehow

worth the pain for the satisfaction

for the relief for the release and anyway

I probably needed a good cry


and my god how boring would stories be if writers

never suffered as children all the poetry

would probably be about nature all the books

would have disgustingly happy endings because

even though we suffer pain as adults even though

grown-ups experience heartbreak and loss

those with pleasant childhoods those supported

and encouraged during adolescence could never know

what it’s like to be broken so early to have

cracked foundations to be damaged at the core by

the ones who should have protected us so I’m thankful

I guess for the kindling that fuels my fire for the

broken pieces those sharp colorful bits of glass that

make up the mosaic of me for the scraps of dirty cloth

in the patchwork comforter over my soul for the

hard heavy stones in my castle walls because my greatest

fear is normalcy I resist complacency can’t stand monotony

cannot will not accept predictability I must have intensity

anarchy catastrophe so that when the lady with the

long silver hair looks back on her life she will know she

survived something conquered something

built something from nothing

used everything—the wounds and the comforts

the triumphs and the casualties

the dumbass mistakes and the brilliant

moments of clarity—to create

her elaborate life’s tapestry and she

won’t regret a single tattered thread

Copyright ©2017 by Angie Tonucci. All rights reserved.