Nancy Mitchell

Always a Woman, a War, or a Lost Cause
September 23, 2020 Mitchell Nancy

Always a Woman, a War, or a Lost Cause


Was why, Dad said, those kinda men ended
up at Zorro’s, a five barstool hole-in-the wall,
its red neon Z slashing the dark alley
behind Tastee Freeze—the proximity
the reason for Dad’s I’ll take the big kids
out  for some ice cream, leaving Mom
alone to wrangle the other three, all
under four, into bed. As Dad bellied
the bar, we huddled in the only booth.
I stirred my hard vanilla scoop
into soup, while my brother bore a hole
with his tongue to the bottom of his Hot
Fudge Sundae cup—a cunnalinguist
in the making if I ever saw one.
When Dad, three whiskeys under his belt,
bellowed  Soldiers, Ten-hut! we’d
slide across the slick vinyl seats
to our feet and execute perfect
salutes. Hearty slaps on Dad’s back
and you’re raising‘em up right
on our way out. He’d idle the engine,
look down the alley and mutter what
a sorry bunch of sad sacks, what
a bunch of sorry sons-of-bitches.
Although happy my hair was shiny
as patent leather from all the cream,
I was, as Dad, pinching my waist, pointed
out,  getting really fat as the nights
marched on and on toward 7th grade.

Nancy Mitchell is a 2012 Pushcart Prize winner and the author of The Near Surround, Grief Hut and the The Out-of- Body Shop. She teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland and serves as Associate Editor of Special Features for Plume. She is the Poet Laureate of the City of Salisbury, Maryland.