A year or two, mornings before school, our father came into our rooms with pliers. My sisters and I crammed into Jordache casings, Gloria Vanderbilts. We’d jump into jeans, tug them up our ashy thighs, abrade young skin with denim seams. Taut denimed butts on polyester Holly Hobby bedspreads, until they were painted on, until our arms ached, our fingers hurt, until we were panting, exhausted, our smooth foreheads beaded with sweat. Near tears as usual, calling for help. After the first time, when he laughed but then couldn’t grip the brass zipper, so ha ha dad the joke’s on you, he kept pliers handy, grabbed the pull tab, tugged it up the teeth so we could button our own damn pants. What we think we want. What we know. What do we know when we ask for what we think we want? We pray for ridiculous things, we humans. And so often are indulged.
Copyright © 2018 by Jill McDonough. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
“Humans want dumb stuff. It’s kind of sweet, once you can see it. This is a poem about remembering a dumb thing that was important to me once, something so basic it didn’t occur to me that it was important or dumb—it was just what I did. It was completely normal and totally insane, all at once. I assume there are lots of dumb things I am doing now that I also don’t question. Probably we all are. Maybe one day we’ll be able to look back and see them. But by then won’t we be doing new dumb stuff?”