In her womb, I grew from the center of her belly and stretched
into her hips. side to side, I stayed stubborn.
Her large laughs bounced me,
her garrulous tongue, my storybook.
My head neither North, nor South
I refused to turn, refused to make space for someone else.
Knowing she couldn’t love me
on the outside like she did on the inside.
They cut her from hip to hip
and lifted the eight pound weight out of her.
A child toned and tuned— the sound entirely different
and the look, female.
The tide was coming up on her chair
and her toenails were flaking pink.
I am ten years old
asking her to hug. Im crying because I got stung by a jellyfish.
My father has tromped off into the water to scoop the jelly by a cup and kill it on the sand.
My mother is drinking her canned coors light offering to pour it on my leg; the alcohol kills the sting. The salt water mixed with sunscreen and the sun stings my eye, and Im crying, so its burning even more. I dont really care about the beer on my leg or the sting or the vengeance of a jellyfish. I have chill bumps all over my body and my teeth are chattering. I want my mother to put down her beer and hold me.
We are in the living room after dinner. She is talking amends as she holds me. I’m now taller than she and her head is in my breast and I can feel her breathing, can feel her belly pushing into mine. I am uncomfortable and comforted. I’m not sure what her eyes are doing but mine are searching the room, searching for a corner where I can focus.
“I wasnt lucky like you. I didnt have a father who loved me.” I am twelve or thirteen tucking her into bed. She said all this to help me understand the bitterness. In the morning when the hangover passed, she wouldnt remember. “My mother didnt care where I was. No one did. I would sneak out just to get caught. I would drink beers skating down the side walks just so they would notice.”
“Did they?”
As she begins to cry, I hug her and run my hands through her short hair. I say, “Im sorry, Mama. Thats not fair. Im so sorry.”
She says, “You are so lucky, so lucky, you just dont know.”

Lauren Banks is originally from Alabama and recently graduated with her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She now lives in the greater Boston area.