My mother killed a man with a switchblade
or a steak knife, maybe a letter opener,
or she didn’t kill him, just left him bleeding,
holding his crotch and crying—the story changed
with the telling—one of many, taken in
like breast milk, enjoyed at the dinner table,
the four of us clapping with pleasure, high fiving—
no, people didn’t high five back then—
although I remember it that way,
our hands slamming like frat boys’
over a beer pong table.
But, for a moment, let’s leave the blood.
I want to tell you another one—about both my parents this time—
after she’d quit her job and married my dad—
they shit in a box, gift-wrapped and mailed it
to her boss, or maybe dropped it on his porch
or his work desk—
because he called my dad a dirty Jew,
or stole her commission,
or maybe because he touched her armpit
when she wore a sleeveless dress.
I’d imagine my parents crouched together,
the intimacy of it, the amazing
coincidence of shitting at the same time.
But that can’t be real.
They must have stored their separate piles
and then scooped them together,
both their dumps, different, but conjoined.
I wondered about the stench,
perhaps detected by postal workers,
as it traveled conveyor belts,
or, if my parents left it stinking
in the realty office, the swarms of filth flies
that deterred the curious.
I wondered and wondered, but asked no questions,
accepted the versions, waited through them
for the revenge at the end,
which pleased me every time—my mother an avenger,
a vigilante, like the superheroes in comic books,
her ruthlessness, her perverse power,
often wielded against patriarchy,
but just as righteously with whips and fists
against the evils she perceived
within my father, my sister, and me.
But let’s return to the scene of the crime.
The man she killed was a rapist—a friend
of a girl my mother knew in 8th grade,
or maybe high school, or maybe
from the peanut farm next door.
She was easy, my mother said, you know, she had sex.
This was chapter two of the tale, the prequel, really—
the origin story of envy and my mother’s allure,
the truth about the Lex Luthors of the world,
described with leering menace.
That girl hated my mother, was sweet on Lloyd—
my mother’s boyfriend—which was why the girl
suggested my mother drive the rapist home
on a lonely road along the canals,
then he jumped her, so she stabbed him in the balls,
reached over, opened the car door, kicked him out,
with her high heels, and never heard a word
from him or that slut again.
debut book, Ghost Dogs (Terrapin 2020), was shortlisted for several prizes including The Catamaran Prize and The Eric Hoffer Award. Her work appears in The Sun, Rattle, Cincinnati Review, Narrative, New Letters, American Journal of Poetry, and The New Ohio Review. She is a member of The Hive Poetry Collective, which produces podcasts, radio shows, and events, and she leads private workshops with small groups of poets from all over the United States and Canada.