Self-Portrait with Dolly Parton

by Crystal Cox



I never got boobs like Dolly’s, though I prayed for them until the squinting made my head hurt. My whole life I’ve wanted good posture for no good reason other than I was told that I should have it. Dolly was the least straight thing on my TV but she always walked upright and I thought her boobs operated like my mom’s back brace.  The problem with Missouri is that it’s so flat. You can see for miles and you don’t bother looking up until it’s night or Fourth of July and your neighbor’s uncle is hoarding the sky and you didn’t make it to the firework stand in time. The good thing about Missouri is that people know almost nothing about astronomy. I used to get rip-roaring high out of a bedazzled bong with my Libra friend on her makeshift front porch. She’d tell me that my life wasn’t falling apart because of contingency or consequence but because of mercury in retrograde. I can’t fucking see the thing, I’d say, and she’d say It’s not like that, It’s a cosmic cycle. My ex was there, too, climbing trees for a better view, scraping his knees on the branches like he’s giving the best head of his life. There’s nothing quite like the 1977 interview where Dolly tells Barbara Walters that she would’ve kicked her in the shin had she called her a hillbilly. I couldn’t wear overalls without my ex calling me a hick. I swear he kept knocking my only pair off their hanger in our shared closet but I have no proof. He used to place rose petals made of post-it notes on our bed but not in front of the at-home stripper pole I bought to finally see upside down. When he installed the pole, he tightened it too much, either because he was worried about my crash and fall or because he was too drunk to do anything loose. Either way, it was static and I didn’t see it spin until I moved out and my dad kicked it down with his steel-toed boot. He never asked, just turned “9 to 5” up louder in his half-dead Ford on the way home. Did you get it all, he said, and I said yes. But in the closet there was still a gun and a cup of glitter. 


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