Poetry 2013 / Volume 44

Any Insult Would Be Better — Olivia McElwain

When I was eighteen,
My best friend called me a bitch
On the Long Island Rail Road,
And I sat there thinking about that moment
For the rest of our trip to the museum.
Not even the dinosaurs
Could pick me back up again.
“SHE’S being a bitch.”
I sat with a huge anchor in my throat
That weighed my head down,
Down, down, down,
Where salt water gathered around my large arms
And drowned me.

To be fair,
I was being a bitch.

My best friend likes to call older mothers
Who drive mini vans,
Fat bitches.
Even if they are not fat.
It makes her feel more powerful
In the driver’s seat
Of her blue Jeep.

“Move, fat bitches!”
I learned that if I keep my mouth shut,
She won’t tell me
To stop being mean to her
When I tell her, “Calling someone a fat bitch
Is wrong.”

To be fair,
Those women cut her off in traffic.

When I was nineteen,
Turning twenty
And having a mid-life crisis,
I almost got
T-boned in traffic
By a man in a black
Pick-up truck.

I remember how his cheeks puffed out
And how he gave me and my older sister
The finger.  He was an inch away
From our small two-door Sedan
With no room to breathe.

I remember sitting there watching him try to get past us.
I remember his knuckle tattoos.
I remember the lifted tires and doublewide back
That really helped with city driving.
And I remember how my sister told me to stop yelling
Because I was the one causing trouble.

To be fair,
I was in the passenger seat.

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