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Marissa

peter belly

Ma sent my little sister, Marissa and I to the store with a crinkled list and some cash.

My stepfather was in jail.

My father was a couple towns over, falling in love—maybe for the first time in his life.


I remember us puzzling in the aisle over ‘rosemary.’

I didn’t know what it was and then, dried or fresh? Leaf or crushed?

Outside the squeaky clunk of the store’s doors, feathers raining down.


Hawks dueling in midair. Beat of beaks. Thrash of claws.

They dove and landed in Marissa’s hair.

I grabbed repeatedly, wing after wing, and tossed them off.


Yet they sprung back as if attached to her head by rubber bands.

They wrenched her hair out, all, ate it, continued fighting while flying off.

There was a sky behind them then. ‘And who shall drink it dry?’ I asked, verge of crying.


I carried her bald and bawling, paper bag handles tearing.

I laid her on the laundry-covered couch like a beached mermaid.

I looked into her eyes. She began seizing. They changed color. I held her. She laid.


Television news played.

Schoolchildren around the world super-gluing themselves to ruins.

Alabaster newscasters assured us this was not political. Simply a fad in bad taste.


My mother took a rabbit in from the cage on the fire escape,

Wrung its neck and began separating fur from flesh.

She sang a traditional song, throwing spice onto a beard of flame.


Trouble came. Ma yelling, ‘you have your orders. Stream the ground with fabrics now!’

I did as she commanded, but not fast enough I guess.

She palmed a goldfish from the tank and pelted me with it.


‘You won’t listen to reason at all, will you?’ She asked. ‘No. No, I won’t,’ I whispered back.

Marissa stirred awake and asked our mother what “marginalized” meant.

‘To be turned into margarine,’ Ma responded, turning back to the kitchen.


My sister got up, pulled a bowling ball from the hall closet.

She dropped it onto the 4’ champagne bottle where we all kept our change.

The bottle’s glass cracked like bone and then spilled a pyramid of coinage.


Marissa the sphinx spoke through closed teeth, ‘I’m running... a-way.’

She began loading down her plastic purse, ants ticking up her arms in lines.

My mother didn’t break her gaze on me, ‘You will not shrink back from our task?’


‘No. No, I won’t.’

‘Even though they are flush in fortune and we are weak, no good shoes, scant ammunition?’

‘I know all we have is us by which I mean all we have is impossible. I’m not afraid,’ I said, all of seven.


‘A mob lives on passion, but also compassion, son.

I am a criminal and to balance this, I need a crime from you—and from you,’

Ma said, throwing an arm out toward where Marissa had been. But she was already out the door.

bird
/airhead/