For My Daughter
How bad do you want to be Little Miss Fair? Tease your do out bigger, bigger than Big Nana’s hair. Only eat foods that you can drink. Better, start a blonde streak and forget to eat. It’s not me. It’s the men that care. And repeat after me, we care most of all for the men. Imagine: Your belly’s a bomb that ticks with each swallow. You’ll give birth if you eat another bite. Thin wins. Shout it to our devils: to the mustard pretzels on our sponsored flight. Shout it to the cushion crumbs, the gum on the floor. I’m no one unless I win. You can’t be ugly and poor. Your childhood’s a promise I refuse to make. You’ll thank me for throwing up your wedding cake. Even a glance at my jumbo dog’s a glut. It takes guts not to have a gut. Remember when you watched them pump mine like oil? I’m your warning, a bomb blown. But loyal.
Left alone, I ask very adult, mean questions to Rebecca, the occupational therapist, after it’s clear she thinks he’s not an improver. How long have you been doing this? I inquire after he gives up writing the A in his name, rolls over, and pretend-sleeps. The edge in my tone guts her taught smile. I sense the upperhand. It’s only the two of us beside his bed. Teach him again how to make a fist, to hold that pen, to squeeze my pinky, pound this table, punch the poise from your mouth. And do it again until he gets it. Until you make him get it. I mean, that’s your job. Isn’t it, Becky?
Now, I picture heaven as Ed McMahon standing in a gym with an accordion folder bulging with index cards. He taps the mike, pulls out each card, and bellows: “Oswald didn’t do it. LBJ bought the bullet. The moon landing took place on the set of Bewitched. 666 is in every barcode. There’s a barcode under every baby. Tupac scats Strayhorn in Prague bars. Elvis died a decade before fat Hawaii. Every airplane you weren’t on wasn’t an airplane. I’m your announcer, Ed McMahon. And now, herrrre’s the rest of eternity, the conspiracy theories from your own head, straight from your own life. Let’s start,” he heyohs, “with sex.”
Not long ago, I pictured heaven as the Sunday School teacher projected it in slides — green field after green field, a rich man’s backyard. Throughout the show, she’d have us repeat, “God is like your eyebrows. You don’t have to see Him to know he’s there.” In the sixth grade, around the time I watched them dump the wafers in a Ziploc, I noticed her brows were plucked and pink, extinct, brown frowns drawn over raw skin. That night, I watched The Tonight Show for the first time and fought off the new fears from the sweet, infected Miss Kimberley.
Anthony Warnke has previous work published in The Prose Poem Project, Hoarse, and forthcoming in Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics. He teaches English at Green River Community College in Auburn, WA.