We smoke because the nuns say we shouldn’t—he-man Marlboros or Salems, slender and meadow fresh, over cups of thin coffee at the Bridge Diner. We fill an ashtray in an hour easy while Ruby the waitress marries ketchups and tells us horror stories about how her first labor went on for fifty-two hours until her boy was yanked out of her butt first and now she has this theory that kids who come out like that got their brains in their asses from Day One. She says we’re smart to give our babies away to some Barbie and Ken couple with a house and a yard with real grass and a swing set, and we nod like we agree with her and smoke some more.
Nights we huddle up under the bathroom window in the Mercy Home for Unwed Mothers and blow smoke at the stained sky while we swap stories about our babies doing handstands on our bladders, playing volleyball with our hearts, how our sons will be presidents or astronauts, and our daughters will be beautiful and chaste, and because we know our babies are not ours at all, we talk about everything and nothing while we watch a moth bang up against the light and smoke some more.
Originally published in Sad Math (Moon City Press 2015)
Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis; A Brief Natural History of an American Girl (Accents Publishing, 2012), and Sort of Gone (Turning Point Books, 2008). Recent work has appeared in the Cincinnati Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, diode, and in the anthologies New Microfiction and Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020. Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.
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