Suzanne Paola

No Words Lecture Hall


You’re not the boss of me my son screams.
He’s tired, and thirteen, and skidding into
my and his sudden strangeness.
(Who is this woman who leaves her wine out on the swing,
crams wisteria in a drinking glass, can’t find a vase?
Who asks him to quit the 80 decibel belching.
She has grown foreign, and ridiculous.)

He says to me, you embarrass me and he says I don’t want you
in my room

I want to say, I love you. You’re

embarrassing me I love you and I’d
never lock you up. Never let anybody shock you
with 130 volts of electricity through your head.
Stick the bit in your mouth, spread
conducting gel on either side of your fine high

Don’t you understand how huge that is?
Don’t you see how that makes me a good mother?
I do say these things, in my mind.
Even there with a pleading, with a pitched


“No Words Lecture Hall” previously appeared in The New Republic.

Suzanne Paola’s (Susanne Antonetta’s) most recent book, Inventing Family, a memoir and study of adoption, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton. Other books include an environmental memoir, Body Toxic, and two collections of poems, Bardo, winner of the Brittingham Prize, and The Lives of the SaintsAwards for her poetry and prose include a New York Times Notable Book, an American Book Award, a Library Journal Best Science book of the year, a Lenore Marshall Award finalist, a Pushcart prize, and others. She is also coauthor of Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction. Her essays and poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Orion, Seneca Review and many anthologies, including Short Takes and Lyric Postmodernisms. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband and son.



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