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November 18, 2021

Three Poems

Nicole Markert

In An Alternate Universe, I Play House With My Mother’s Homophobic Love Interest  

My mother tells me to make food for him & I do. I walk into the kitchen barefooted, sweep the floor so the crumbs do not stick to his feet. I open the fridge, take out a styrofoam carton of eggs, bacon, & American cheese. He will only eat American cheese. I pop toast in the toaster as I hang over the stove. I flip eggs in the frying pan while I fill the Keurig with water. I spill the water, but I smile while doing it & the corners of my lips crack. He walks out of the den & asks where’s breakfast. He flips on the TV but doesn’t watch it. Reruns of music documentaries are playing. Freddie Mercury dances on stage at Live-aid. He shuts it off. I don’t listen to queers. I slide scrambled eggs onto a small blue seashell plate. I serve it to him with his morning cup & coffee mate. He doesn’t say thank you. My mother tells me I'm such a good daughter. He tells me I would be such a good wife. I smile. He takes a bite. The eggs are bland & need more flavor. He yells at my mother & tells her she’s two-faced after he finds out she put the air conditioner on without telling him. I smile & my fingernails stretch to excavate craters in my back. He turns to me & says he doesn’t understand women & they drive him crazy. He pulls a thought out of his ear like a thread: But you know what I don’t understand though? The gays. The alphabet. Whatever you call them. Don’t they know it’s Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve? He calls me, I mean them, sinful. He talks about anatomy; how the sex must be unsatisfying. He talks about his Trans relative: how can you be anything other than what God made you? My throat hurts, but I look at my mother & her eyes say don’t mess this up for me. I bite my lip. My teeth split & my gums bleed. I swallow the pulp & the porcelain chips. I hold it. I sit on the casino style barstool. I cross & cover my legs when my mother tells me to & I gag. My mother asks me what’s wrong. A small stream of blood leaks down my chin. I swipe it back in with my tongue. I swallow it down. I lick my teeth clean to smile.

letter from daughter to bitch

listen, i welcome death like a priest with their arms outstretched, throat humming in worship. there are days where i drive and the clouds beckon with their wispy fingers. there have been days where i thought about following him head first through the windshield of my subaru outback. you never knew. how was i supposed to say i wanted to taste the lightness of clouds? you’re always telling me to go on facebook. check your status. you posted something for him today: a post with a cross, flowers & some corny quote about grief. you’ll read these posts, but not the bedside letter i left about how the ocean of my stomach lurches when his name is mentioned in waves at the dinner table. i ripped it up, but i listen through the drywall: i know you write to him every night. the other day you told me you couldn’t throw away the card with his handwriting. it was my handwriting. like ink stains, we have become blurred, him & i. he is your child, yes, but i am alive. when i tell you he visited me in my dreams and we sat, hand in hand, on the trampoline by the cherry trees in our old front yard, the fireflies stuck to the safety net like string lights you interrupt & ask: why didn’t he visit me instead?  i shut my bedroom door & it sticks, sweaty with summer heat. for the first time since his leaving, i look in the mirror & wonder—

if you would love me more if I were dead.


letter from bitch to her daughter

listen, loss will leave you out to dry like worms on the hot concrete sidewalk in the middle of july. there will be days where setting your first child’s birthday as your password for your work login will make you smash your face into the keyboard. there have been times where i stared at the yellow medication bottle a little too long. i know. i didn’t mean to grab the safety bar above the passenger seat when you made that sharp turn. it is reflex now. i thought i would never see my child’s obituary in the newspaper like my own mother. it is in my blood, so it is your inheritance. on facebook, i saw a reposted photo on the bereaved parents group that said ‘grief is when love has no place to go’, then why couldn’t i give it to you instead? you are a moon child. yet, you acted so calm after it happened that other children spread rumors that you could see the ghost of him. i thought it was because i raised you to take nails through the skin of your palms. i should’ve known there was a reason you spent so much time in your room during that summer of your sophomore year, even when your friends invited you to local bonfires at the lake. i ignored the stillness when you stopped coming out on the wooden porch to watch cardinals swarm around the cherry trees. i have learned; i am a bitch to everyone around me—

that includes you.