Christine Potter

As If We Were Anything But

No one gave me permission to write these words.
They are the opposite of our family credo: nothing
we say here gets repeated outside this house. As
if we were anything but a bunch of intellectuals

losing their tempers. As if you didn’t have to have
sex to have children. As if no one’s secrets were
deeper than the silken, flesh-colored ottoman in
my mother’s bedroom, with its top that opened

to reveal a dozen pairs of impractical shoes she
hadn’t worn since before she was married. As if no
one else’s grandmother had to inject her own thigh
with medicine to stop migraines. As if no one else’s

father cheated—but I knew more about Nana’s
needles than that; I’d seen how she pinched her
own fullness before she used one. As if no one’s
mother chose not to get divorced, but sharpened

her stenography skills and went back to work. As
if no one else’s father taught her how to develop film
in the terrifying total darkness. As if I never turned
into your father’s daughter after he did. As if any

of us knew how to do anything else, including me,
including now. As if I had never gazed into the
ghosts of my friends’ faces in a sneaker-smelling
tray of processing fluid, under the orange safe light. 

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Christine Potter lives in a very old house in New York’s Hudson River Valley. Her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Sweet, Mobius, Eclectica, Kestrel, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Third Wednesday, and was featured on ABC Radio News. She has poetry forthcoming in The Midwest Quarterly. Her time-traveling young adult series, The Bean Books, is published by Evernight Teen, and her most recent collection of poems, Unforgetting, is on Kelsay Books.