And I Have A Girl
The poster said missing.
The news said drowned.
The neighbors said the pull at high tide
where the creek meets the ocean
was something else altogether, a something
you had to respect, but something
you’d never shake hands with. Something
that when it showed up, you turned and walked away.
The news said she drowned and the mother
made the poster and the poster said missing.
When the poster was new I looked at the girl
straight-on. I am a mother and I have a girl.
I said I can only imagine.
I said I cannot imagine.
Summer peaked and the poster grayed.
I am a mother. I could not look
at that girl anymore. I did not say
anything. I pretended
she was no longer there.
After Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl"
Sticks stay outside; you are not a dog. Boots stay in the mudroom; this is not the Wild West. Always ask for a guest’s coat; never ask for a guest’s shoes. Manners before mud. Be the first to offer your hand. Be the last to take a second helping. Open the door for your grandmother; I expect it. Don’t open the door for your aunt; She resents it. Don’t ask me why. Don’t hit your sister. But she said I … Don’t interrupt. If it’s urgent, say “excuse me.” If your sister hits you, you deserve it. No means no; I don’t care what you thought she was saying. Clam chowder is milk and potatoes, not broth and tomatoes. Boil lobster in seawater and serve with drawn butter. Never eat shellfish in a month without an R. Always eat shellfish with vodka, preferably in a Bloody Mary. Horseradish not Old Bay. Celery not jalapeno. Always have the first drink. Never have the third. Nobody likes a sloppy drunk or corn from New Jersey. I’m not old enough … Don’t interrupt. If it’s urgent, say “excuse me.” Philanthropy not charity. Baseball not football. Station wagon not SUV. J. Press not Brooks Brothers. English setter not golden retriever. Vinalhaven not the Vineyard. Don’t pick your nose; that’s what Swamp Yankees do. Pick a woman for her bottom and her brain, not her chest and her laugh. Good ankles are not to be overlooked. Excuse me … Don’t interrupt; it’s not urgent unless your pants are on fire. Marry for love and a shared literary sensibility. Stay married for friendship and tennis. The Wall Street Journal is not literary. Golf is not tennis. Sex is important and don’t let anyone tell you money is not. When you talk, speak up. Don’t mumble. Don’t mince words. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t talk politics or religion; it’s crass, as is imitation maple syrup. Don’t swear in front of your aunt; she thinks it’s uncouth. Don’t swear in front of your mother; she finds it low. If you’re going to swear, commit to a proper epithet. Do not bother with the Lord, he’s not worth your Sundays or the breath from your mouth. Excuse me, could I try saying … Your pants are not on fire and the answer is no. I don't care what you thought I was saying.