Seventy-Five Lines for Dolly’s Seventy-Fifth
It costs me lots of money to look this cheap.
I’ve blown the budget on sequins before.
But I made a vow: I am not a sheep—
I am a shepherd writing songs galore,
once, two hit singles in a single day.
“Yup, that was a good night,” I said and swore
off Corona. Now I drink Beaujolais
and run lines for the 9 to 5 sequel.
I've got big dreams the boss can’t take away—
can’t “the man” see we ladies are equal?
I still carry a pistol in my purse,
but my grin’s sincere, my heart’s peaceful
as Baby Jesus in that Bible verse.
If I still had my many-colored coat,
I’d wrap it tight around the world, rehearse
as though the whole earth was my stage, then float
freely home to those Appalachian hills,
my beloved Smokies, where I co-wrote
“Rainbowland” with Miley Cyrus. Her skills
remind me of my own at twenty-four
when I touted Avon, and the cheap thrills
of cheap perfume traveling door-to-door.
I wrote “You Ask Me Not to Wear Cologne.”
I wrote “Two Sides to Every Story”
with Porter before I went on my own.
After, I wrote “I Will Always Love You”
which you-know-who (Elvis) hoped to co-own.
"No way," I said. Elvis stuck to his blue
Christmas, fever, and cold Kentucky rain,
and in the end, I kept that platinum tune.
I have big hair and a big business brain.
Long ago I turned those busty blond jokes
on their busty blond heads and broke the chain
on my ten-speed as I sped away, spokes
spinning like the 8-tracks of my first songs.
Then came my parade of wigs and dumb pokes
about my accent. Producers prolonged
my dependence on them. It took me years—
in fact, it almost took my life. What’s wrong
with Romeos—songs that gave me my career—
or hit duets like “Islands in the Stream”?
We relied on each other, ah ha, steered
me to fame. Then Lily’s and Jane’s scheme
to make a women-in-the-workplace film
exploded in solidarity and team
play. The theme song was an anthem, a hymn
homage to heel-clicks and typewriter keys,
a companion piece for Abzug and Steinem
and all those sick of saying pretty please.
I’ve never called myself a feminist,
but I’ll wear it if it means equality
for cowgirls, nurses, and receptionists.
I’m a Christian ally—no conflict there—
but I won't claim I’m fundamentalist
on any subject except footwear.
I once dubbed myself a “Backwoods Barbie”
and I’m okay with that. I'm debonair
on the inside. There’s a yang you can’t see
alongside my ultra-bedazzled yin,
or there’s a jolt and an epiphany—
my ladylike boots are made of buckskin.
A cowboy in tight jeans might turn my head,
grab me to dance at Dollywood. Even
so, Dean’s the only one who’ll share my bed.
What’s the secret to our 54 years?
Well, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em”
like Kenny says. But we’re all amateurs,
I’ve learned, and “ama” is the root of love,
all those Tennessean hoots and hollers.
My dark roots, split ends, push-up bras out of
style, second chances as snips and tucks—
everyone knows I’m neither blonde nor dumb.
You say you like my pipes. I say “Aw, shucks.
I sing what I feel, and I feel it deep—
my joie de vivre, puissance, and WTFs.”
Denise Duhamel’s (she/her) most recent book of poetry is Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021). Her other titles include Scald; Blowout; Ka-Ching!; Two and Two; Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems; The Star-Spangled Banner; and Kinky.She and Maureen Seaton have co-authored, most recently, CAPRICE (Collaborations: Collected, Uncollected, and New). She and Julie Marie Wade co-authored The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose. She is a Distinguished University Professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.
Maureen Seaton (she/her) has authored twenty-one poetry collections, both solo and collaborative, most recently, Sweet World (CavanKerry, 2019), winner of the Florida Book Award for Poetry. Other honors include the Lambda Literary Award, Audre Lorde Award, NEA, and Pushcart. Her memoir, Sex Talks to Girls (University of Wisconsin, 2008, 2018), also garnered a “Lammy”. She teaches creative writing at the University of Miami.
Julie Marie Wade (she/her) teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami. She has published 12 collections of poetry and prose, most recently the book-length lyric essay, Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing (The Ohio State University Press, 2020) and the hybrid-forms chapbook, P*R*I*D*E (VCFA/Hunger Mountain, 2020). A winner of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, Julie makes her home in Dania Beach with her spouse Angie Griffin and their two cats.