Acceptable

By Alison Stone

1.

That’s unacceptable, my father barks

when I mention my toddler’s

biting. Well, she’s frustrated

 

and can’t…  He cuts me off.

Unacceptable. Just

unacceptable. The drumbeat of his voice

 

pounds, biblical. I stammer,

but the books say…, flimsy,

groundless as a corsage.

 

Unacceptable to Dad

when I was growing up:

noise, mess, backtalk, any type of lettuce

 

besides iceberg, lateness,

long hair on male heads

or female armpits,

 

mentioning the doors

my brother kicked in,

Democrats, dog sweaters, “Women’s Lib.”

 

A compulsive volunteer, my mother

socialized with women whose jewels and

houses made her voice shake.

 

Their daughters smirked at my

nameless jeans, changed tables

when I sat down. Mom told me

 

to wear make-up, braid my hair. I brought her

prizes and report cards, laid them at her feet

the way my cat delivers headless birds.

 

2.

My junior high school list

of how to deal with boys:

Never mention test scores.

 

Don’t correct them.

Curl and separate eyelashes.

Use small words.

 

You, my sister whispered,

can do better

when I brought my first love

 

home. Stiff in a cheap

new jacket, he hadn’t read

Homer, got pronouns wrong.

 

I can’t be in the Pretty Club

unless I cut my bracelets off,

my first grader announces, gesturing at

 

bands of braided thread her

favorite counselor tied around

her wrist at camp.

 

She’s mesmerized by

the mirror, keeps

changing her clothes.

 

3.

Recall after recall, the problem

isn’t that there’s lead

in children’s toys, cups, jewelry,

 

toothpaste, wax vampire fangs, and vitamins,

but rather that the amount of lead

exceeds what the U.S. government considers acceptable.

 

My younger daughter and I

make a list

of things to do with Mad:

 

tell someone about it,

draw a picture, bite

an apple, squeeze a doll.

 

Where her sharp teeth clamped,

my forearm reddens and swells,

infection spreading.

___

Alison Stone is the author of Dangerous Enough (forthcoming from Presa Press 2014), Borrowed Logic (forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press 2014), From the Fool to the World (Parallel Press 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. She is also a visual artist and the creator of the Stone Tarot.


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