In the bullshit books of my youth, girls swooned
when the mysteries of weakness and will
overwhelmed–they fainted, collapsed in a fog
that drew the family for a bedside vigil, waking
from a riotous sleep to find all problems solved.
You handled things differently, with a baseball bat,
chasing bike thieves to make them apologize.
Do you remember locking the front door,
forcing me to fight? When I turned to face
my bully, I kicked his meat so hard that I felt bone.
I never wanted to be tough. I know it’s the pills,
but I hate the new you–an unwanted child–endlessly
puzzled, a chart for everything, including a black mark
when you think the upstairs neighbor kicks his dog.
We used to joke about the men in white coats,
but I see how this will end. You’re a stranger, Mom.
Handle your business. Bang a broom on the ceiling,
trigger the fire alarm late at night, because you need to drop
the marionette routine and go back to how you were–
unhinged but in command, kindhearted, kind of mean,
mastermind of punishments that outstripped the crimes.
Alison Pelegrin is the author of four poetry collections, including Waterlines (LSU Press, 2016). Hurricane Party (U. Akron Press, 2011) and Akron Poetry Prize winner Big Muddy River of Stars (U. Akron Press, 2007). Her chapbook Our Lady of the Flood was published by Diode Editions. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Board of Regents, and she has published her work widely with poems in recent issues of Crazyhorse, The Bennington Review, Gulf Coast, Electric Lit, and The Gettysburg Review. She is writer-in-residence at Southeastern Louisiana University and lives in Covington with her family. You can find her online @AlisonPelegrin.