by Matthew Guenette


— for Nate Pritts



My mother’s voice could jerk you inside out like a shirt.
Then you’d be sorry
like when Steve stuck a snake in the fish tank.

My mother’s voice
could throw ice buckets over shower rods a mile away.
Could kick

an attitude up and down Winter Street
no matter how sweet it dressed.
Would daisy your ass

and though she was small and wore sweaters
like a cheerleader
my mother’s voice could rise up taller than any backyard

all-star trash talk or whatever you tried to flip
behind someone’s back. It gave
side-effects like burning eyes.

Rearranged faces like Picasso.
When my brother and I launched bottle rockets
out our bedroom window

at the nutcase neighbors with the Reagan placards
on their lawn, my mother’s voice
was so rocket up the stairs

even the cosmos paid attention. It could hear
you a thousand times in the graveyard
smashing bottles or playing

with matches. It knew who gave who
a Charlie horse, who ripped
who’s boxers with a sky-high wedgie. It could see

whose hand lifted
the five from her purse. It uncurled my brother’s hair
and I swear I saw it

in the headlights that night
I played chicken with her Buick on Breakneck
Road, but when she had to come to the station

at 2 a.m., had to listen
to some backseat-driver’s lecture
from an idiot cop about how to parent

before they turned me over,
the scariest part was the ride home, an hour’s
drive through a moonless dark, when she didn’t say a word.




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