Some Nights

are so much fun because I can stay up late and have as many Cokes as I want and Mommy will dance with me in the living room, each of us starting in one corner and meeting in the middle and hooking our arms and twirling in circles, and it’s my job to change the record and to rest the needle without scratching it and to get Mommy a new bottle of Miller Lite from the fridge and drink the last swallow of her old one and put the empty in the garbage, and Daddy laughs and Mommy too and everyone lives like this laughter can’t turn to screaming in no time and Mommy won’t be in the corner crying and holding her face and Daddy won’t need to come with me into the living room to listen to Terry Jacks tell us it’s hard to die when all the birds are singing in the sky or to rock on the orange chair and stop breathing so hard, and I’m still too little to think it’s hard to die even when the birds aren’t singing and that maybe Mommy hates me for being with Daddy instead of her but I hope she knows she is my favorite person in the whole world or else last year the bus driver wouldn’t have had to carry me off the bus when we got to school and I said I would not get off and go inside and she needed to take me back home so I could be with my Mommy eating chocolate chip pancakes and Lipton Cup-a-Soup and watching Inspector Gadget, but she said no and carried me in kicking and screaming and Mrs. Bilty had to call Mommy to come to school to be with me so I would get up off the floor and pledge allegiance to our flag, and on these nights when everyone laughs and dances and the music doesn’t have to stop Mommy loves to hold me down on the floor, not like Daddy does in his hold-downs where he squeezes me tight with my back against his chest and we lay on the floor watching TV and he won’t let go until I stop my squirming, but she sits on my chest except not heavy or hurting just holding my hands over my head with one of her hands and tickling my ribs with her other hand because Mommy loves making me laugh and I can see her face now as if she hasn’t been dead for 13 years and our house Grandma and Grandpa built wasn’t torn down three summers ago and we are still in that avocado kitchen with the green linoleum floor Daddy laid and  Mommy’s face is hovering above mine, her black hair hanging around her dark brown eyes and her real smile and she tells me again, I’m still stronger than you, Lisa Fay, and I’ll wish she always would be.

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Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming 2020), Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. She’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a Rona Jaffe scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize. She is an Assistant Professor of Poetry & Creative Nonfiction in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.