Dear Mother by Ally Malinenko

Oh, Mother,
it wasn’t until you said,
No we’re good, all done here
to the waitress as I passed to get
into the bathroom that I made the decision.

It was something about your face,
your full, lunch fat
contented face
because you had spent the last few hours
with your husband
and your friend
and your two screaming toddlers

who ran under and around my table
the entire time.
who made it impossible
for me to tell my husband
about Betty Tompkins
who labored in obscurity
for 30 years
painting intimate and close up
of fucking
detailed veins
hair and folds

but I couldn’t say this because your husband
wound up lingering around our table
playing with the kids
like we were in his living room
while we tried to have a beer
tried to have a quiet lunch
and your kids were screaming
screaming, Mother,
do you not hear them?
I know you’re on the other side of the bar
but still

so it wasn’t until you smiled at the waiter
all lunch fat contented
that I stood in the bathroom
and decided that I would not
just walk out
not spend a day feeling shitty
because this is your world
a world where no one questions
your importance
because you have procreated
and that is, after all, a woman’s purpose.

No today I will say something
for the rest of the people like me
who just wanted a little lunch
a little conversation about art
or music
or something of beauty

and as we go toe
toe in the middle of this restaurant
which you smugly remind me
it’s actually a bar
which just makes me laugh
because that’s even more reason
to not have two screaming toddlers running around

So that by the end, my husband calls your husband an asshole
and we go out into the snow laughing
somehow vindicated
because we took one back for the little guy
because sometimes a little pissing match makes all the difference,
because Mother,
your screaming kids
might be on to something
with all that screaming.


Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collections The Wanting Bone and How to Be An American (Six Gallery Press) as well as the novel This Is Sarah (Bookfish Books). She has a poetry collection forthcoming from Lowghost Press entitled Better Luck Next Year.


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