When my father writes a check, my mother sets her hair with spiked pink curlers and wears a kerchief for days. This is penance of the most feminine kind. The Harvey Wallbanger looks fancy on the kitchen counter, but the cigarette remains unlit. A marble copy book, of the black and white variety, itemizes every antecedent, the golf clubs slouched against the garage door, the polyester blouses that undulate on the wash line dictating primitive desires, necessary to counteract the effects of a deprived childhood. One thing at a time, my father reminds us. When my brother secretly tapes my father’s fiscal sermon at the dinner table, my sister’s eyelids droop as though it were a lullaby. She sucks her thumb despite the familial force of shame. No matter: it costs us nothing.
Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019), Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021) and Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily (Cervena Barva Press, 2022). She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.