“How To Be A Member,” by Christina M. Rau

Dec 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Poetry

Sign something in blood,
Anyone’s blood,
Using a colonial quill.

Check off every box on the application
No matter what it’s for.
MALE check! FEMALE check!
AGE check!

Develop a handshake that does
Not resemble an actual handshake.
It should include finger wiggling,
Some light palm slapping,
Maybe a head fake or summersault.

Wear a shiny blue jacket,
Gold and blue trim,
Front snap closure,
Nickname stitched on the front left breast,
Some sort of sparkly transfer on the back.

Light candles.  Swing a paddle.
Fall into cadence.

Keep it hush hush.
Mum’s the word
Unless the secret password is

Change the secret password
Frequently and at random.
Use obscure words like
Plangency, Deliquescing, Solipsistic.
Use words that no one really
Knows the meaning of:
Ablative, Asunder, Bifurcate, Inchoate.
Use fun words like
Gazpacho, Umlaut, Maria Conchita Alonso.

Pay dues.
On time.
Every time.

Recite an oath. It should rhyme.
Sing an anthem. It should move to tears.
Wave a flag. It should have stripes.

Laminate the membership card.
Carry it in a wallet at all times.

Deny membership if asked.
Deny anything exists for which membership
Is an option.

Erase all evidence of belonging.
Shred the bylaws and any instructional pamphlets.
This message should self-destruct
In five, four, three, two,
And if it doesn’t,
Destroy it as well.


Christina M. Rau is a professor of English at Nassau Community College and the founder of Poets In Nassau, a reading circuit on Long Island, NY.  More importantly, she once played a tightrope walker in a fake circus in the second grade and has been petrified of balance beams ever since.  She’s also scared of human-sized costumed characters, but that’s an entirely different story.  She loves moonbeams, puppies, and sarcasm.

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