Everyone Has an Unreasonable Fear That Also Feels Like a Gift

Mary Biddinger


Nobody considered me one of the tough girls. Quiet, yes. Invisible as a sheen. I was never not new. Walked through the lunch line without paying, then flipped my braid at the ticket-puncher. Refused to eat in public, rolled a pineapple jellybean in my fingers until it dissolved. My best friend was a freight train who interrupted history class with threats to derail. I wore combat boots at the fundraiser sock hop. Refused to wash my winter coat. Scratched a rhododendron into the bathroom counter with a sharpened paperclip. All the answers on my scantron looked like scabs or suspicious moles. I refused to work with partners on the French skit, broke the curve with my monologue. Shoved a cheerleader into the Class of 1984 commemorative fountain (drained). Lit a wet n wild liner pencil ablaze before eye-swooping. At the talent show I performed an original song called “The Moon Hates You” and meant every verse. Revised horoscopes of my enemies: toxic shock syndrome, carbon monoxide, fatal dings to immaculate car doors.


Mary Biddinger’s newest poetry collection, Department of Elegy, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in early 2022. Her poems and flash fiction have recently appeared in Bennington Review, Crazyhorse, DIAGRAM, Gone Lawn, and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. She teaches at the University of Akron, and serves as poetry editor for the University of Akron Press.