by Meg Kearney
When I got my head stuck between the porch rails
I didn't know enough yet to hate my body, but I knew
a thing or two about smoking my father's cigars
with Patrick Dunn under the pines behind his house,
and puking while my brother rolled joints and stacked
45s on the record player in his room. My sister
turned me on to Carole King and JT, swore her friends
would die in Vietnam because her peace medallion
was flammable. She tried to teach me to dance, but
I was never graceful—it wasn't a surprise,
me wedged in that railing. How did they get me out?
Nixon was president; Martin Luther King
was dead. The whole country was in a fix,
my father said, though he never said a word
about the cigars. His heart was a shooting star;
I thought he could fix everything. My mother
believed she could fix his failing heart with home-
made tomato sauce and a Manhattan on the rocks.
My mother rose with the fish; she was unable to
cry; she put her hand to my father's cheek, then went
back to work. Uncle Frank called her a good German:
Arbeit Macht Frei, he said, and she nearly kicked him
in the shins. I loved Uncle Frank, but I don't want to
talk about him. Uncle Frank's dead. But let's say I do
remember how they got my head out of that railing.
It took a crowbar—took what seemed forever
because the adults had their loads on by then. That
night my best friend and I took turns wearing the wig
and high heels: we were knobby-knee glamorous, we
were nothing like our parents. Uncle Frank leaned
in the doorframe as we preened, fluttered, eyed
the dapper men, toasted each other with empty glasses.