No, it’s not because they are getting unemployment checks

Bartender lining up glasses of beer
Bartender lining up glasses of beer
Photo by Proriat Hospitality on Unsplash

Working as a server or bartender is hard work. Like retail work, you have to smile while putting up with rude or demanding customers. Back when I was a bartender, one irate customer spat his false teeth at me.

Also like retail workers, you aren’t paid well. In fact, in most states you’re paid far less than minimum wage. Servers rely on tips to make up the difference.

By “far less,” I mean under $3.00 an hour in most states.

Tips are unreliable. That set workers up for a major crisis in 2020, when restaurants and bars closed down due…


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

One of Medium’s best ideas in 2021 has been starting the #StopAsianHate blog. I’m looking forward to reading and learning more about what life is like for people who identify as Asian in the present day and in the past. Reading has been an important way for me to educate myself about racism and anti-racism.

I’m especially hoping that Medium will include voices of transracial and transnational adoptees who identify as Asian, like J.S. Lee who writes about the trauma of transnational adoption for Yes! magazine

As a domestic adoptee, I feel a sense of solidarity with all adoptees. We…


Going no-contact with toxic parents

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Most parents do their best for their children, but they make mistakes along the way. It’s part of being human. Toxic parents, those who physically or emotionally abuse their children, are another thing entirely.

Either way, forgiveness is one option, whether it means letting another person off the hook for how they hurt you, or letting yourself off the hook of staying hurt.

Forgiveness has many faces. For me, forgiveness meant going no-contact with my two adoptive parents.

Adoption is complicated under any circumstances, and in my situation it was further complicated by secrecy. I was the elephant in the…


The original purpose of bail was to insure a defendant’s appearance at trial. Now it’s a different story.

Metal jail cell door with white person’s hand gripping a bar. Unclear if the person is inside or outside of the cell.
Metal jail cell door with white person’s hand gripping a bar. Unclear if the person is inside or outside of the cell.
Photo by Weston MacKinnon on Unsplash

In the last 40 years, cash bail in America transformed from a system assuring defendants’ presence at future court dates into a pre-trial punishment. This transformation has devastated individuals and families, and it has both reflected and reinforced the power of police to commit violence against citizens.

Some states have recently made progress in restricting cash bail, but in most states, the cash bail system puts people who live from paycheck to paycheck at risk of being imprisoned on the whim of police and prosecutors. Innocent until proven guilty is no longer the law of the land in those states…


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

Asian woman with white hair and glasses, hands folded under her chin, wearing a bright yellow shirt
Asian woman with white hair and glasses, hands folded under her chin, wearing a bright yellow shirt
Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash

Aging is the sort of inevitable, non-negotiable topic that fascinates poets. Birth, school, work, death, in the immortal lyrics of The Godfathers.

Some of us fight aging. Some of us embrace it. Whichever approach is yours, though, aging beats its only known alternative. In the immortal words of someone.

People in my family die young. Maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted to be old. Or maybe it’s because I’d hoped to be old and wise, to stop making the same foolish mistakes over and over again. This year, I’ll be 64, and the bad news is I’m still making foolish…


NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

An olive green book of Shakespeare nestled in a white duvet with a cup and saucer
An olive green book of Shakespeare nestled in a white duvet with a cup and saucer
Photo by dazhi on Unsplash

Sonnets are often the first poetic form people learn about, and for good reason. They are fourteen lines long, usually about one subject, and contain a brief argument that makes a distinct point. These three qualities — brevity, focus, and argument — make them accessible to those who are beginning to read poetry.

The two traditional forms of the sonnet are the Shakespearean (think Shakespeare) and the Petrarchan (think — you guessed it — Petrarch). …


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

White datura blossom
White datura blossom
Photo of datura blossom by saikat das from Pexels

The word “villanelle” is from the French, although the form itself probably originated in Renaissance Italy. Originally, it was not a very structured form, but the villanelle we know today plays by a long list of rules.

Poets are so often rule-breakers. Why would they be drawn to the limits imposed by form? Can free spirits abide having limits set on their creativity?

Some poets believe imposed limits free them from their mind’s repetitive patterns.

I’m in that camp. For example, writing in form forces my brain away from the patterns it wants to follow. It forces me to find…


#NaPoWriMo2021 Poetry Prompts

a display of accordion fold paper flowers (or possibly the tops of umbrellas) in shades of yellow
a display of accordion fold paper flowers (or possibly the tops of umbrellas) in shades of yellow
Photo by Cathy Mü on Unsplash

T.S. Eliot (why do I keep bringing him up when I claim to resent him?) is credited with saying “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” Of course, it’s plain wrong to plagiarize, and Eliot’s statement shouldn’t be taken as a license to lie. In fact, if we practice good research habits and read the statement in context, it becomes clear exactly what he meant by “steal.”

One of the surest of tests [of excellence] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets…


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompts

Two feet in black and white
Two feet in black and white
Photo by How-Soon Ngu on Unsplash

I don’t recall where this idea to “write a poem to part of your body” came from, or even if it came from a prompt. The idea may have come to me spontaneously, but I wrote the poem at the end of this post during NaPoWriMo 2018, and I did make use of prompts from many sources that month. So . . .

Poems addressing body parts often have a humorous tone. One of my favorites, “Homage to My Hips” by Lucille Clifton, spans the spaces between history, humor and wisdom with miraculous elegance. …


#NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt

Book cover of The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo showing a dilapidated house in an overgrown field
Book cover of The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo showing a dilapidated house in an overgrown field
Book cover of The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo

Have you ever felt left out of a conversation?

I felt that way when I began an MFA in Creative Writing program in the 1990’s. I didn’t get why my fellow students kept mentioning “Hugo.” It was “Hugo this” and “Hugo that.” I broke down and asked one of the professors, “Why does everyone keep talking about Victor Hugo?”

If you’re a fan of 20th century poetry, you’re probably laughing at me (good-naturedly, of course).

The other students weren’t talking about Victor Hugo, the 19th century French author of Les Miserables. They were talking about Richard Hugo

Michele Sharpe

Words in NYT, WaPo, Oprah Mag, Poets&Writers, et als. Adoptee/high school dropout/hep C survivor/former trial attorney. @MicheleJSharpe & MicheleSharpe.com

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