Wednesday, March 31, 2021



Mother. Noun. My mother died piece by piece. It took
a decade. And now I get a replacement, going through adoption records.
“Better not fuck this up,” I tell myself, because I think I’m funny,
which means I’m always apologizing and realizing I’m not so funny,
like how I walked into the dance studio just now
to say hi to Robin and Natalie before the high school football game,
and without taking the temperature of the room, which only
occurred to me later to imagine, I made some comment
about Natalie’s dance makeup, which turns out to be
just the thing she and Robin had been stressing over an hour,
because makeup, for halftime dancers, is ¾ of the world,
and I just blundered in with “Ew” or “Ugh,” funny dad,
look how funny I am, and so Natalie leaves saying “I hate you”
and Robin won’t talk to me. And I know this. And what the fuck
is wrong with you, in this town, in this world, saying “ew”
about this makeup that she didn’t want to wear in the first place,
but the dancers have to wear the makeup the theme committee
comes up with, and The Incredibles is stupid, of course it is, yes,
everyone knows that, but to say so is—we must not say so
and why didn’t I already know that, why do I continually
not know that? I’m trying to think here. Let me think.

I’m sitting in the stands with Robin. It’s halftime. The dance team
takes the field, performs. Natalie has a trick where she
stiff-arm rolls forward and then flips over the backs of two
other dancers who lean forward. After, she comes up
to where we’re sitting to say hi, and she’s all smiles.
“I usually slip the first time I do that trick,” she says.
“And I didn’t slip in practice, so I thought for sure I would
then. But I didn’t.” And so everything is fine. Ha. Funny joke,
this shape we take, as water takes shape, that we rise to
and fill. As all the years there ever were are right now.



John Gallaher’s most recent collection of poetry is Brand New Spacesuit (BOA, 2020). Recent poems appear in American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, Crazyhorse, Pleiades, and elsewhere. He lives in rural Missouri and co-edits The Laurel Review.



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