by Lisa Allen

I scare you now. What would you say if I told you I can’t help it?
The Lord above gave me this crunchy shell. The smell.
Built me to crawl & made damn sure
I always knew my place—butchering chickens, ironing shirts
for other women’s husbands. Raising my babies.
My babies’ babies. Got used to your grandpa leaving
and coming back whenever he damned well pleased.
Leaving again after he got what he wanted.
Remember when I told you the three things
a woman never needs are a husband, a driver’s license,
and a checking account? Turns out I was right,
but just about one of ’em. But you know that
now. I reckon you also know that creatures like us
only stink when crushed and sweetheart,

I couldn’t ask then but I’d really like to know
why did you wait until the wake to use
the pretty words? Strong. Steady. Patient.

Remember how I called you every year on your birthday?
I loved telling you the story, how I went to sleep one person
and woke up as someone new: I was taking a nap
and your daddy sat on the edge of my bed, shook me ’til
I woke up & said those holy words: Wake up, grandma. She’s here.

I’m still here you know. Just different. I’ve never been happier
to blend in. If I could still pray, I’d bless the bluegray of your sweater
that lets me inch back to the crook of you, prickle the skin
I long to kiss goodnight.

Lisa Allen’s work has appeared in print and online journals and three anthologies. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry from The Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program, where she was a Michael Steinberg Fellow. She has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize and is a co-founder, with Rebecca Connors, of the virtual creative space The Notebooks Collective, and a founding co-editor of the anthology series Maximum Tilt.