There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad,
She was horrid.—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My better self makes excuses for me:
I don’t know what’s got into her. She’s not usually like this.
When I’m bored by some slow dinner story
my better self says, Please pass the peas,
then tugs the choke collar.
if I start to say what the fuck,
my better self says step aside
let me handle this. My better self wears a habit
like my second grade nun, carries a ruler
with a metal edge. Underneath it all,
my better self wants to marry me but she thinks
I’m not worthy. She nicknames me Sweetie,
I nickname her B.S. for Better Self.
She’s the smooth speech bubble in a comic strip.
I’m the jagged thought bubble.
When I want to bite like a black fly,
she gets there first and blows kisses.
Can’t anyone see how awful she is?
She says, You can come out now. Whoops,
only joking. I snarl with a mouth full of maggots.
She says, listen to me or you’re on your own
and everyone will know what you’re really like.
She says Don’t talk back. Fat chance.
she won’t let me get a word in edgewise.
Before we leave for the protest,
my better self puts on a hat with ostrich feathers,
then changes it for the baseball cap everyone
wears these days. I plant one of the feathers
in my belly button, poke a hole in my jeans
it can wave through. Puh-lease put that away
says my better self, but she giggles
when I use it to tickle her stomach
then cuts her eyes at me:
When you go to the rally, chant,
pump your sign if you must,
but don’t pick anyone’s pocket.
When she turns her back, I slip
her wallet out of her bag.
My better self insists we go to counseling.
She wants to work things out.
I want to flip her the bird and leave.
When the therapist asks, And how do you feel
about that? Duh, I shrug, while my better self sniffles
and rubs her cheek. We’re getting a divorce, I say,
and I’m taking the car and leaving
our issues unresolved because I don’t want
to prolong this any longer than yesterday.
Meaning, I took the keys from the counter,
the engine is running, have a nice life,