Poetry & Prose

Poetry and prose from feminist writer Darrah de jour.

Frozen in Time: A memory of my grandfather, Irving, and how he shaped me

photoBy Darrah Le Montre

When I was younger, my grandfather was like a father to me. My own father and I have always had a complicated and challenging relationship, and my grandfather, with all of his gentle, paternal, steady, and quiet strength provided a kind of stability that my father, with his broken childhood, and my mother, with hers, couldn’t offer me. Now, the irony that my grandpa created fractures in my mother’s landscape and spiritual foundation that she’s not been able to fix and yet provided the exact opposite for me, is not lost on me.

When he died two years ago, I remember looking out the kitchen window and feeling his essence around me. I admired the black birds doing somersaults against gravity, gliding through the air without care. The clouds were billowy but felt heavy and burdensome on the sky. The trees were wiry and thin, suddenly. But, still the sight was commanding. “Who am I now that Papa has died?” I thought.

I knew I would be forever changed when Irving Hoffman died because he forever changed me. I used to say to myself, “As long as Papa is alive, everything will be OK.”

There was always a mantle of mystique around my grandfather. Plus, stories are so convoluted as a child. Take his time in the service, for example. As a child, I didn’t understand what my family meant when they said he was “too late to fight in the war.” Not understanding that the war had ended, I imagined him being impunctual. Sleeping too late, he just missed the battlefields of World War II, which in my mind, looked like Balboa Park with a volleyball net.

Family folklore maintained that he met my grandmother at a party, while on leave from the Air Force. She danced the jitterbug manically, chewing gum as he looked on from the kitchen. Rumor has it, that she told a girlfriend she’d one day marry that handsome man with the black hair and tall, slender build.


My grandmother, grandfather & my mom as a baby

There was a commitment to secrecy about his alcoholic father who beat him regularly. I still picture the path Papa took through the tiny bathroom window he had to hammer open with his small fist, to sneak out and roam the streets awhile when his father was feeling particularly ornery.

When my grandfather died, he was 95. He was dying to make it to 100. (He’d appreciate that pun.) For many years, he was fixed on the idea that he would be a centenarian. But, as the physical manifestations of age took residence in his body, he subtly stopped sharing his once feverish plight. His mind was always lucid and his memory was unchanged. The second to last time I visited him in the hospital before he died, he told me the full name of his kindergarten teacher. I can’t tell you the last names of more than two of my high school teachers!

The complicated part of losing a man who is irreplaceable, is coming to terms with the fact that you will never be the same as a woman.

I finally had a man to lean on. A man who would listen to me share stories about my day. Who helped me pay speeding tickets when I was eighteen and made a paltry income working as a full-time receptionist with no benefits and no car insurance. He demanded my address every time I moved, which was frequently, and sent a fifty-dollar bill each year for Hanukkah. In 2013, he moved into an assisted living facility. Up until then, he called twice monthly to check in on me and find out if “all the little puzzle pieces” were coming together. He was like clockwork and I appreciated it like an astronaut greeting the impossibly distant fairytale man in the moon. Consistency was a vacancy, a phantom otherwise.

From the time I was nineteen-years-old and for six years afterward, family members told me to stay quiet about my fluctuating sexual preferences. To refrain from sharing my sexuality with co-workers, friends, bosses, and especially with Papa. “He’ll have a stroke!” I was told. It was hurtful, but I silenced myself. In some ways, I understood their apprehensions.

When I was twenty-five, I told him that I was in love with a woman and may even marry her. He said, “Well, then, I must meet her!” He invited my then-girlfriend over for dinner in his home.

Much to my relief, he didn’t die because I was bisexual. In fact, he adored my girlfriend, and even wrote me a letter the following day—mailed and handwritten, of course, never emailed—letting me know of his support.

His house smelled like a combination of warm, freshly cooked chicken and potatoes, Polo cologne, mothballs, and time. There was stillness there. The piano in the front room; his beloved coo coo clock that was as loyal as he was; the patio, which oft-piped Frank Sinatra and other old tunes from its aerial speakers, all of it had a friendship with a soft still quality. Peace, I think it’s called. I just loved it there.

His home reminded me of my grandmother and their Independence Day barbecues, celebrating their anniversary, him wearing a “Kiss The Cook” apron and chef’s hat, manning the meat. Despite the fact that my grandmother died there, I never felt like there was any negativity hiding in the thick petal pink carpet fibers or floor-to-ceiling gold lamé wallpaper.

Not long before he died, Papa was thrilled to meet my infant daughter. Snug in her stroller, he looked over her, the way he had looked over me for so many years. He proudly declared, “Not many babies meet their great-grandparents!”

Sometimes, I drive by his old house, now gutted and resold, and imagine him walking down the front steps, full head of hair, a few greys loitering around, pants hanging off of his slim frame, black pen and index cards sticking up from his shirt pocket, waving to me before disappearing into the house, whose smell still surfaces in my mind once in a while, when I’m relaxed enough to let myself miss him.

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faith isn’t easy


some lost body parts and some lost their breath

some broke their hearts and dropped their bags, and looted stores

and nothing would be the same again.

kids got shot and men got shot down.

and nothing would be the same again.

we got lost and found again and by the time i hit 15 i was a believer with a growling belly.

by the time he shotgunned smoke into my mouth, i questioned god time and again until Interview With A Vampire seemed

like a good idea. I fell asleep on his shoulder while he urged me awake to see

the end of the Crying Game.


Who knew years ago, years later standing here with binary and polarity as more of strangers than they were then or even a few

years ago.

Who knew I’d pray to believe in the crucifixion because i need to believe again.

And the sour jokes about religion and the way he looks at me when I pray. Like he loves me more than ever.

But still he says he believes in nothing but seems more faithful than anybody

I’ve begun to pray sitting in my bed and in the midst of the down feathers and the stuffed animals and my dog;

i feel uneasy. Faith is supposed to be hard, isn’t it?

With rough edges and broomsticks on the knees. Splintered hands. Dry mouths from fasting.

Faith is supposed to hurt. Like self-flagellating priests and sinning and repenting.

Faith has spikes and whips and kicks you when you don’t need it enough.

Like marriage or a job or working out. All of which I’ve loved before. We look at married people and think: it must be easy

because they committed to it. No, we don’t. We know it’s hard. It seems to go against human nature to

marry one person and screw one person forever. But, we do it with the best of intentions. And I will soon.


And we look at religious people like it’s easier for them. Because they made the choice. They committed to it. So they

have the answers – more answers than we. But, they are as meandering as we. Just toppled over with guilt, right?

Or is there not one kind of refugee from the brink of faithlessness?

Is it not faith that licks us clean, and pours water down our throat and lifts us up and reminds us of our divinity?

The salve that hides between the cars and canteens and leaves that cotton candy taste when all we want is to be bad again

because being bad kind of does that same thing. Only those night sweats kick you in the balls reminding you that faith isn’t easy.

I suppose it’s hard-won like all good things. And being born full of faith makes you punish yourself more when you want

to surrender to the darkness and believe you can do anything you want because you want it. Perhaps the restraint could be a kink

and the straightest edge could be like a Swiss knife cutting your back, slicing the skin in finite patterns until you begin to hide the scars.

You smile whenever you lean back and feel the grief of repercussion.

faith isn’t easy, because god’s smarter than that, i’n’t he?

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Daisy Sighs

In her crib she twists with a snorting nose

waiting for me to fix it.

Her skin melts the touch. Softer than the softest petal.

Her laughing is sudden and contagious. Her smiles are a game of Where’s Waldo.

So gratifying is Daisy.


Her hair is full and plenty – from the start. Dark and light both. Eyebrows of blonde and orange.

She holds my finger so tightly. Sometimes, her nails scratch me when she’s startled.

Gripping for safety. I’ll keep you safe.

All of life is worth another ticking clock and exhale; when Daisy sighs.


Can’t wait to see you in the morning, Daisy!

Reaching for her and pulling her in. Smelling her unique baby scent. Every eyelash, I’ve memorized.

I’ll spend eternity remembering you.

My sweet petal of a girl. So furiously strong for your size. Every want I will meet as I can, sweet Daisy.

Your music already has me under your spell. Your daddy too.


The clicking keys have woken you. As you daydream in bed. About the books we read you, perhaps? The puppets we

model in front of your face? The sparkling, glittery lights of the tranquil turtle toy? Or the brand new faces that peer into your path, before your protective mommy pushes them away, by covering you with a blanket.

Or maybe, milk. Expressed from my breasts. For your life to continue with vigor. My breath of spring. Oh, Daisy.

Healthy and strong. Happy and deliciously addictive. A field of life beside me everyday! How lucky I’ve become. Everyday.

Daisy… my daisy… my daisy… my daisy.

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Ann Coulter’s Vagina

I wonder if Ann Coulter’s vagina wants to revolt against her. Devise a powerful plan for some desperate exit. Does it seethe with jealousy at detachable penises? Does it long to ooze red blood all over her stick thin couture? Between menstruation and the next presidential inauguration it waits like a sleeping Cobra for her next faux paus. To further harden and become a sterling statue of a private part. Once soft and amorous to the touch, it – unlike her devilish persona – rots in private.

Few have eaten here. Many have died.



c. Darrah Le Montre, 2014

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by Darrah Le Montre

When I was eighteen, I allowed my then-girlfriend to move into my furnished-upon-request one bedroom apartment on Newcastle Avenue in Encino. I had badly wanted to move to Sherman Oaks, which I valued as “much cooler” and told my father so, from the back seat of his SUV. My mom rode shotgun, nervously applying and re-applying liberal amounts of rhubarb Clinique lipstick in this way she does. She makes a blowup doll O with her lips, then drags that wine red stick over into the crevices of the O where it slims at the sides. Drag stick, repeat. Drag stick, repeat. She pulls out a box of sugar-free spearmint gum. Before I say anything, she extends her arm over her headrest and drops a naked slice onto my sweaty palm. I toss it into my mouth. We both share a gum and Diet Coke addiction. She knows about the boys I’ve fucked, the STD scare, the pot and even the speed — but only somewhere. Somewhere in the back of her mind, like those secret veins I’ve seen leering behind her eyelids; popping out like a Jack-In-The-Box at only two distinct times: when she’s trying to make me laugh or is so angry she resembles the last human standing during Zombie Apocalypse. She won’t ‘fess to knowing, and years later, when I admit to relapsing, she repeats like a Hare Krishna sixteen round chant, “I didn’t know! I really didn’t know!” I’m not sure I believe her, but it really doesn’t matter too much anymore. I’ve already blamed her.

“No! Encino is nicer. How many times do I have to say this? Diane, you tell her,” my father shouts from the driver’s seat.

“She wants to live in Sherman Oaks. It’s cooler there.” My mom offers, then shoots me a look in the side mirror.

“It’s not that far from Encino! It’s the same degree of heat. Sherman Oaks is not Santa Monica!” he determines, then smiles at me from the rear view mirror, like Paul Ryan assuring old folks at Jewish Home for the Aging, ‘See, we’re on the same page.’

“Not cooler like hot and cold. Jesus, David. Cooler, like, COOL. Cool, fun, hip.” She opens her purse again, shuffles its contents, then re-zips it.

I sit back in the seat. Leaning forward is a nervous habit that puts me in false control. I even push their seats like a zealous teenager kicking the chair in front of him at the cinema. Except I’m pushing with my hands in a metaphorical Atlas Shits type position. Pushing them out out and away from me like a bad turd that’s wrecking my bowels, my intestinal fortitude slipping. Thinning, paper pliable, every almond I eat shreds my insides and I’m downing Tums several times a day to ease the pain.

“Are you OK?” My mother asks.

“I’m fine.”

“She’s fine, Diane. Stop babying her.” My father lectures paternalistically.

There, ready and willing to be right, but when it comes to the actual protecting part, he dodges the draft and hides out in Canada, or rather, his makeshift office in the garage.

The hum of the dryer is one of the only sounds, even still, that calms me to the point of utter saturation. I melt into the moment, and a sort of Holy Spirit-like glee comes over me. I glide aimlessly around the house, and feel God like I used to when I ate my mother’s homemade white rice with mushroom soup splashed on top. All the while avoiding the big piece of hard meat she stuck in the corner of the plate. Dinners were spent begging me to eat the meat she’d prepared, that the rest of the family gleefully gobbled down. They never stole my piece because half the family had germ phobia (which I now have) and the other half was teased mercilessly by my father at dinners, and they feared reaching over and having him slap their hand.

The garage where he hid out was dubbed (by me) as The Dungeon. “The dragon’s in the dungeon,” I’d say, as code to my sister or brothers that he was home.

If I walked through his office and into the laundry area of The Dungeon, sometimes I wouldn’t even know he was there. I would get so lost in my imagination as a child that while my mother begged me to eat my meat and hurry for school, he begged me to “Pay attention! Look around! See what’s happening around you!”

“HELLO!” he’d shout from his desk.

“AAAAHHH!” I’d scream, and jump from my lithe teenage body like a Halloween cat narrowly escaping a satanic ritual.

“How do you not know I’m here? Why do we do this every time? This is my office, is it not?”

“Yes, sorry. I don’t know.” I’d laugh nervously and try to push the basket through the narrow entryway.

“Why do you startle so easily? What’s wrong with you?” he’d ask, while I’d shut the door between us, and hope he didn’t follow me in.

Turns out, I had PTSD when I moved out of my parent’s home. Like, literally. The same shit Vietnam Veterans and prisoners of war and abused wives and yadda yadda yadda get. I had that. Or so my shrink said. The nightmares that my father was chasing me with a gun, the stomach aches that lasted all day and were both an aperitif and the dessert parfait to a meal. The fact that I got startled about five to ten times a day. The intense dreams, oversleeping, under sleeping, binge eating, overexercising, drugs, abusive relationships. This was the never ending cycle of my years from eighteen to about twenty-eight. Suddenly, I stopped having to eat papaya after every meal, because I gave up Tums when I went organic.

We were parked in front of a building on Newcastle Avenue. A bucolic tree-lined cul-de-sac that bragged rows and rows of ritzy apartments that were hopefully in my price-range.

“If I go in with you, they’re going to think I’m paying your rent. If you go alone, you might be able to negotiate a lower monthly rate,” my father advises.

He’s turned around in his seat. I’m listening, but as usual, amped like a Ferrari at a stoplight, innards purring, just in case I have to dodge something. My heart is beating fast and everything scares me. Including talking to this rent lady that will surely be strange and mean and ask lots of questions like adults always do and sometimes I tell the truth and sometimes I tell somebody else’s truth.  His eyes are icy, and I watch his hands to make sure they aren’t going to accidentally smite my face when he makes a point.

“Go in with her David, Jesus. She doesn’t know what she’s doing,” my mother says.

He shoots her a dirty look. We all get out of the car and buzz the manager. She’s an older lady, gray-haired, about 76. She speaks with a Long Island accent and walks around with a long curly rubber cord dangling to the side of her Bermuda shorts and flip-flops. We pass a forty-something Latino professional barbecuing asparagus at the public grill. He smiles as he removes his tie.

“Hi Ricardo,” she says. The ‘a’ sounds like Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting  telling his girlfriend, Minnie Driver’s character, that he doesn’t love her.

My favorite scene was that one. Where she cries and begs the bad boy to stay with her and he hijacks her heart and, too scared to give in, leaves. But, his last glance tells her it’s only pride and that he’ll be back… She’s crushed, but she’ll survive. Because she’s in college, and because Matisse’s The Dance hangs above her bed. Another favorite of mine.

Mickey, the landlady, leads us up the cobblestone stairs. I hear the familiar creak of my mom’s “dancer’s knees” as we make our way to apartment 15. Upper unit, new linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom…

“Refrigerator comes with the unit, gas stove, lots of cabinets and storage, an extra hall closet to make up for no walk-in in the master bedroom, fully furnished, paid utilities, and eat-in kitchen. Nice, quiet building, mainly seniors, a few professionals, a small gym, pool, grill, and the neighbor next door is senile and delusional. Five sixty a month,” Mickey spouts like a veteran announcer at a veal auction.

“Can you help at all with the price?” I ask, my voice just audible.

She freezes. Looks to my mom and dad. “Are you helping with the rent?” she asks my father, who is dumbfounded.

“No, no, I wish, but no.”

“I can knock five dollars off the rent. Five fifty-five a month.” She says, and lifts her curly cord of keys.

They remind me of my own endeared-to chain when I assistant managed a candle store in the mall at thirteen. I like her. And I like this apartment. And, given I have no car, I can take the bus to work. What I can’t take is driving around with my father and mother another day looking at apartments in the sweltering heat, listening to their sentiments laced with lust and malice both. I count the paces from work to Sherman Oaks’s Tower Records. Close enough.

“I’ll take it,” I say. Without consulting anybody.

“It’s not for sale,” Mickey guffaws, “you know that, right?”

I let a low-level noise rumble in my throat. I walk out the front door, down the stairs, out the security door, and stand on the sidewalk to get some air and gaze into the moon. Trying to suss out the Man or the animal or the eye or the upside down orange wedge.

I jog to a pay phone and call my then-girlfriend at the dirty video store where she works as a cashier.

“I found a place. It’s in Encino.”


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Angles, a poem


Angles and verbs
nouns and now
what’s left to describe with words
the here and her and how
Left unattended I may please myself
though cramping and flowing
floating up to find the sky
is still the bravest place

Take me up there baby
can you do that for me?
make me find my legs
around you
pushing and pulling
your fingers inside me
that’s where I want you
inside me

Find that angle where angels
and dogs and gods
see your eyes
I too see your eyes
mysterious eluding see
i see what you’re getting at
just sleek enough to find that angle
where you fit into my heart
and can’t move enough to get out

Take me into yours
in that place to dwell
between your horizon and your dreams
if you’d just talk in your sleep
I’d know exactly how you feel
guessing one day I’ll know everything
your angles and verbs
those things that can’t be described
with words

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morning song.


beauty rises from the ashes/we all start somewhere/with your lips pressed to mine/soft, delicate rose petal lips/a woman’s mouth/open and fragrant/long silky tongue jetting in and out/whispering sweet nothings as you find your way down/and i press against you – petals lifting up – careening out from the pressure/and my body finds its shape/amid your shape/curvaceous and long/a stem ripe with consequence/fingertips sad from the loss of your thorns/and then they appear/a bee sting survivor/i weep into an hourglass/filling the vase with wishes you will reappear/rising from the flames/your courtship with danger and entropy winning again/and my rose becomes a vibrant, vile bird/a mythical creature of the night/glowing against a round, fecund moon/the very essence of woman herself/and there you go again/morphing into something unrecognizable/but myloveforyou remains the same/ever the same/my beautiful woman/ever the same.

if for once, my constance can revel in temptation, smashing hips against circumstance/righteous and strong/i’ve always had these hips/and i will always love you. music is my drug when you are gone/and the silences between the notes stretch to offer company until you arrive again/with your bag swinging along your thin waist/begging me to touch the sour spots others passed over/on their way to the sweetness/like juice of the immortal/but all things sweet will one day grow hard/like sap on the vine stretching long to encumber the source/i will rise toward you like a sunflower begs for the nourishing rays/and you will give me what i need/there is no scarcity in remembering

whence you feel my thorns, too/tho’ they bow with fragility to your masterful glance/one of those?/my heart sings again.

beauty rises from the ashes. you, my love, make me dance along the crest of the roaring blue flames, orange licking my underbelly like a morning song.

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We Weren’t Meant To Be, We Just happened


Name the natural disaster these writings were based on…

Watch the sun flicker, playing hide and seek between the window coverings, slim and long like a droopy eye. Like honey slipping from from your tongue into my own cavernous home for your saliva. For your spit. To slip between my teeth, teeth you lick, teeth you suck and squeeze between your thumb and first finger. Between your fingers my come sticks to the nails, like amber sap – less a flaw, less a gnawing underground anxiety that agonizes, begs, flickers, dilates and crawls, to get you. To have you. To own you. To claim you. To eat you. To master you. To understand you. Bodhisatva. I need help. H.E.L.P. and you are my doctor, my nurse, my scalpel and my horse. Ride me, thrill me, take me to the tip of the moon and bend me over its crests and curves. Punish me, steal me from the world as it knows me. Tear me down like an old building where they worship newness. Where they curse creases and stretch faces and leak secrets. Rebuild me. Into your fantasy. Bridge together what is with what was and what never was. We weren’t meant to be – we just happened. And, now what? Now what?

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i was so happy once
the world was a box of Swedish Fish
and you grabbed for one and that one became two
and now i can’t find the source of pleasure
if my life depended on it

i can’t find the button on the remote
that will shut you off.

and my only hope is hope
which is ethereal and invisible
as a drug
for which i am banned to take

pawing at reprieve you
ask again:
what am I worth to you?

Photo Cred: Candice Holdorf

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