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The Cutting Place

ISSUE:  Fall 2009


She’s always been a tomboy, Mama Vic says, Mouthy.
Runnin’ the roads. Not comin’ home, and as she speaks

DJ slicks back her yellow mane into a ponytail where it rats,
her slight thighs packed into tight khakis and her chest

lost in a baggy green workshirt from the Hess,
no makeup, all attitude, one hand grabbing her imaginary

dick and the other ripe with gasoline, newly evicted,
her lazy eye wandering over the Babel of seven kids

now occupying her mother’s living room—My bitch,
Mama Vic calls her, my baby bitch—and when this bitch rages,

the woman who made her daughters pick their own switch
for a bare-bottomed whuppin’ she deemed The Peabody Special

takes her grandkids in, ambles toward the ailing
couch to pick out their nits with a comb.

DJ spits into her phone, Dat bitch better step back
or I’ll beat her ass,
hangs up, lights another Newport

as her name surely immolates in the mouth of the girl
on the other end of the line, and the children scream over

three porkchops and a slab of mac and cheese she’s fixed
after her shift, her anger a fast-rising balloon in this room

where her mother’s Madonna of the Dolphins
opens her porcelain arms over the television to bless

Maury Povich and his inglorious guests. Days later,
DJ will fidget in the pumped-up vinyl chair

contemplating her wet hair like a favorite pet or maybe
cursing it just for being there, sour because she knows

that when the snips come, they come fast, they will cut
and cut like her tongue can cut, faster than the cry of

any child who may need her, her mother’s glower, her temper
shorter than summer; in her mind revs a van filled with

dollars of gas and clothes in the back, a narrowing list of houses
she could run to and the narrowing roads she might drive

to reach that beautiful fair-haired girl
she was before her years as a woman—years which,

after the cut is over, she will sweep
into a dustpan with the length of a broom.


In Verse is supported by Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. This project is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a broadcast partnership with Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.


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