They tease about the fact that when I was growing up…
I used to fight them, but then I would be the one who
would become involved with the nonviolent movement.
It feels good to be mean. It feels good
to be mean to my sister, brother,
my boy cousin who’s bigger than me.
It feels good to kick clouds of dirt at them
from a tire swing. Feels good,
feels good. They come close to stop me,
I kick faster. It feels good to be meaner
than everybody. I show my cousin
an axe I found and he tells me
I wouldn’t dare cut him. I say I will
and not to come near me. Gripping the axe
in both hands, I lift it and let it fall.
The blade nips his cheek. The tiny snake
of blood on his face makes my aunt
yell, They’re going to put you in jail
for life. I’m scared, but it still feels good.
It feels good to throw rocks
from the big tree on our farm, the tree
my father says someday I’ll grow
almost as tall as. My sister warns I’ll never
get old, that before this happens
I’ll go to the devil because nobody
likes me. I wrestle her when she says this.
I knock her down in the grass
and rip off her glasses, and I bite
her bare shoulder. When she gives up,
I hit her again. Good, good,
good. My mother shouts at me
to sit beside her as she plucks ears
of corn. She tells me to look in the fields
at stalks rustling in the wind. I squint,
looking hard. She tells me the whole farm’s
trembling out of fear of my feelings.
She tells me the whole world’s
waiting for me to change.
Marianne Kunkel’s poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, and elsewhere. Her chapbook is The Laughing Game (Finishing Line Press). A Ph.D. student in poetry at the University of Nebraska, she is the managing editor of Prairie Schooner.