9.4 / April 2014



He is a man’s man, with hair that goes all up his arms. Shirt wrapped around his biceps, dirty streaks turning the white to gray. There is something inside me that needs to come out and I ache for something outside of my reach. Outside of my house. He is there, with muscles and dirt and hair and smiles. He is telling me he needs my help. He is telling me Pop told him I would be perfect to help. He is opening the door to his car and moving the tools off the seat. I am sitting down. I am careful to not scuff my shoes. I am smoothing my hair down and trying to calm down because my face is red. Because I can feel the sweat on the top of my lip. Because it sliding down my temples. Because I am nervous.

He is turning the corner. Telling me about his work and the amount of muscle it takes. How, He gets covered in mud yeah, but the women seem to like it, and I have enough money to buy beer at the bar. I am laughing, slouching down the way He does, legs spread, chest wide & open. Not fixing my hair when it slips in my face when He rolls the windows down. When He rustles my hair as we drive. Muddy Waters is a man’s man who’s mama told his daddy He was going to be a rollin stone. He is singing along as if He wrote it, as if He knew a man could be a catfish all along.

I am licking my lips and bouncing my fingers on my knees. Asking how much farther so He could tell me not that long. About as long as his dick – Ha! What a funny joke, don’t I believe it? Don’t I believe it? Would I care to see if he’s lying? One day I will get a dick like his if I’m lucky, yeah, and I will learn what to do with it. He could teach me now, He could make me a man. A real man knows how to use his weapons, son. A real man knows his power. I am sweating again. I am leaning and trying to figure out how to breathe. I am touching the hair on his legs and my heart is thumping in my ears. I am red faced and He is groaning. He is pushing my head down, pulling the hair on the nape of neck. My hair is messy while my palms are sweating and then I just have to swallow.

There is salt coming out of my eyes and trickling down the sides of my mouth. There are little girls planting marigolds outside the window with their mother. There are boys playing stickball in the yard. There are eight houses with white shutters and two houses with no shutters, but each of them have a driveway and grass. Numbers painted next to the door. We are turning the corner. Back onto the street where I live. The sun is just starting to fall behind the trees and I am wondering what mother has made for dinner. I am smoothing the wrinkles in my pants. He is humming and keeping his hand on my shoulder. He is telling me how Pop was right about me. How I am such a big help.


It was because of his legs. They way they bent without snapping.
It was because he wasn’t afraid to get dirty.
It was because he looked at me.
It was because he looked at me and smiled.
It was because he opened the door to my car.
It was because he spread his legs as he sat.
It was because we drank whiskey.
It was because he licked his lips.
It was because the handcuffs were on the table.
It was because he was still smiling.
It was because my insides tightened.
It was because I got hard.
It was because I saw him get hard too.
It was because I started sweating.
It was because he laughed.
It was because he could leave.
It was because I couldn’t.
It was because his hair felt like silk.
It was because he could talk.
It was because the rope was in my pocket.
It was because he said he wanted to see a trick.
It was because I was in control.
It was because I was high.
It was because I never liked mess.
It was because my heart was racing.
It was because I couldn’t breathe.
It was because I came when he fell.
It was because I had to work.
It was because I was tired.
It was because I was shaking.
It was because he was a sissy.
It was because I can’t.

I was working at Starbucks when a single mother
told me she thought her daughter was going to be
a serial killer. I laughed and pumped mocha.

Because if it were real, she would never
say it aloud.

                          I was just in the kitchen
                          steaming vegetables for dinner
                          when Mia ran out of the bedroom                        [screaming]
                          holding one the rats we just bought.

                          She kept yelling ‘I think I killed her’
                          holding her arms out, the rat limp
                          in hand.

                          I was struggling to understand.
                          ‘I was playing with her, squeezing
                          really tight, then letting her go.
                          She just stopped moving.’

“She never cried.” She told me. I stirred the milk.
“I cried all night about it. She never cried.”

You know

when you hold
something so
small &
so fragile
& just for
one second
think to
a bit

It’s like that

Alyssa Davis is a MFA candidate at Columbia College in Chicago. Her most recent (and first!) publication can be found in the Columbia Poetry Review. She is just starting to spread her wings, so watch out.
9.4 / April 2014