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Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Under the Bassinet

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Even amoeba-sized I knew her as Maddie. Her hair like mine but less of it. Eyes the
color of Vegas glitz the morning after. Mrs. slapped the mascara right off us. My twin
bird was a hidden electrical eel. The caulk would find parts of her
along room corners when she was distressed. Nails embedded in the shag carpet, hair
intertwined with humidifier cords, blood droplets over sanded cherry floor finishes.
Always the dust, maniacal invasions up our noses. Our laughs whirring industrial
machinery or just intimidating insects, an emptied humidifier alarm drowned out the
yelling. We
practiced our own psychotic alphabet.
A without list: miniature accordion
metal pot
plastic rainbow horn
lion-faced kettle
pink teaspoons
We were the instruments.


A swinging cradle our Grand Canyon campground. Skinned our knees and the silver
minnows we pretended to catch. Then one night we let the bears in. Slaughtered whoever
said we couldn't play.

Late to the party

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Someone called you a mole-rat. I punched them in the teeth before I knew how to make a
fist, disjointing my thumb, weird blood sports wearing striped knee socks to hide the
bruises. The red, a sacred color to your. Redder than flushed face. Redder than quivering
tonsils. Wrapped the thumb up with crime scene tape. What Mr. and Mrs. lacked in
attentive care they made up for it in their doll collection. Laundered white cotton dresses
every day. The white was blinding and a joke. Re-sewn eye buttons. Now Priscilla had
the sight! now Magnolia can see her own innards coming out the cat's rectum, we joked.
We took
the black sack Mr. gave you, used it to stuff mouse holes in the corner. Mr. never did
have any creative vision. We hung barbies from the closet ceiling.


Ticked off the minutes, hours.

When Mrs saw her dolls hung she gurgled a strangled crow call.
Dragged to the doghouse by our apron strings. A cross locked the door
from the outside. Mrs. Philips watching from next door, hears the
banging. She knows no other way.

Fantasy in a Second Location

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Like horses at the starting gate, sometimes we explode into the world. By accident.
Sustenance is dread at the Quik-e-Mart with Mrs.  She had to take us. So unstable
thinking about her doll daughters. Will she sell our organs at check-out.  The second hand
on the two. The hour hand on the one. So this is what it's like in the afterlife. Air to
breathe. What it's like? Maddie whispers. Thinking we could explode her body apart with
the metal cart. One hard, celestial push and the aisles dizzy with coupon codes, tasting
tables, beeps and foot-steps, suffering emergency vehicles. Smell the slimy Prosciutto
like her tongue.  Mr's face too close in the dark.  Lick the hot cheese dip for eternity you
twat. See an entire dry cracker buffet in alternate time zones. Plummet into green broccoli
trees where it is there.     No, there.  The body should be there.                       the strands of
hair       thesplatter        I see it all. Playing watcher kneeling on gummy cement.
The celery with raisins               ants on a log.  Big bumps on skulls. The frozen food
section the      Arctic bear traps           Our turn to play cut.    Waiting plainly         for our
next tourist polar ice cap excursion.   We could get out. Observe       this koala       care
bed.     Pink Balloons at checkout       signal awareness —  our time is almost up. Meat
spread spreads us too thin                   Ginger ale fizz bubbles           dives to its death
oranges and heads roll, Paper goods topple, shoppers revolt             produce trucks
ramrod our big bang               Mrs. pinned under the magic cart.                 Later Late
Night interviews me. I shake my head sadly, nod knowingly, and say
To be taken to the second location always ends in doom.

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