art by Kirsten Kramer

Let's call it a do-over

“The family fell apart,” you say, while making a new one.

I am suspended. 

The seatbelt cuts my high-school freshman neck, 

severs it clean. Released, my head floats above. 

Mom’s head drifts too, somewhere downstream.

We are on separate vacations — from her past and my present.


Mom’s is long gone by the time I grab my own head and go.

“The family fell apart,” you say while making a new one.

I want to yell, but Mom’s ears are stuck on a riverbed,

while doctors try to cure my case of just-a-neck;

“It’s common, I’m afraid,” the doc says, breaking the news.

The drugs are supposed to help with the pain.


I see him at my friend Logan's wedding, 

standing with his girlfriend, soon to be wife.

So I abandon someone kind for a wild man.

Deep down, I can tell, we both need to yell: It’s your fault.

I feel warm, fully anchored in my seat beside him when I visit, before we fall apart.

It’s quite the set-back, my therapist says.


It’s going to shit with men because I lost the keys.

And I am still searching for them, the ones to our original car,

a soft top; I rip it open to see my guts still there, baking all these years.

You abandoned the machine and left me to rust in the sun.


I need you to remember, so we can get back in.

You drive; I sit taller now but will slouch to be realistic.

Let’s replay our roles, but end it a better way, please.

Please help me do this so I can finally stay in love.


I am a child.

I pirouette and dip, 

In a pale pink tutu at the father-daughter dance.

Searching, I step out in front, alone. I bow.

You don’t remember the dance; I’ve forgiven you.


Mom holds me after the show. 

You should be proud, she says. 

I am. I am. I am. I am floating.

That's what I always thought love felt like. 

It's more like warm milk, my therapist says.

Same time next week?


Thanks to my friend, Adrian Bonenberger, for editing.

Do you love our work? Give us a tip:
Add Tip

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Why a store?

Instead of charging subscriptions, or asking for donations, we support our publications through our marketplace.

This way, readers get our original essays and reporting for free, and we maintain our journalistic independence. ❤️