Cousin Lynette says she’s tired from cleaning
East Main houses of rich bitches. They don’t even shit
like us, got toilet seats that float to the bowl,
never make a sound, & she hands me the baby
over the front seat. Days off Merry Maids
we like to drive her ’97 Trans Am to Gulf Shores—
kd lang over eight speakers.
I’m tired too, tired of being the babysitter.
Leah, grabbing my earrings, covers me in crumbs.
She bites off the heads of animal crackers.
Only eats heads.
Don’t know why I hang with her.
She’s like the girl who cut my hair at Cinderella’s
saying I had the ugliest strands she’d ever seen.
I kept going back for more till Lynette blurted
you don’t need to pay for that kind of shit.
And Lynette says outright
she’s sexy & I’m not. We both know it.
Junior high she called me a mutant. Boobs
like raisins on a fifteen-year old’s wrong.
Mama took me to the doctor & he shook his head.
At least Lynette is a good mother.
When the kid has fever, Lynette won’t go
to work. I’d rather lose my job
than leave a sick baby at daycare.
Guess that’s why I hang with her.
She might call me names, but let somebody else do it,
she’d scratch their eyes out. At the Sonic,
some boy from Crossville leaned in the window,
drop the fat chick & let’s go driving.
She clawed his left cheek & screeched away,
tray still on the car, cokes & fries flying.
Son of a bitch thinks he can dump on you and have
a good time with me. Stupid bastard.
I thought Lynette would always be the one to leave.
Good looking. Smart. She never let anybody
walk on her, or me, though she did
what Cochran girls do after getting their
driver’s license. She got knocked up.
Wouldn’t tell a soul who the father was.
We all thought it was Sonny Cruz.
He went to Iraq in August & emailed Lynette every day.
Like they were junk, she’d hit delete.
He started writing letters she stacked on her dresser—
unopened. Keeping in touch with soldiers
is talking to the dead. Sonny could come back,
I say. Lots of boys make it. Lynette turns away
he might, but he won’t be the Sonny I knew.
After homecoming she carries his letters out to the grill.
They catch on the third match.
Every last word.
Finalist, Winning Writers Sixth Annual War Poetry Contest, November 2007