Stephanie writes from the hills of northern Appalachia. When she isn’t working as an SSA for children with developmental disabilities, she is writing poems, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, attending workshops, painting mandalas on the walls in her home, or watching trash TV. You can find other work by her in WOAP Women Speak: 10th Anniversary Collection, Ghost City Review, Not Far From Me: Stories of Opioids and Ohio, Essentially Athens, and Sheila-Na-Gig online.
If you think I’m going to bend backwards,
head-first in the shallow end
of the Ohio River, you have rocks for brains.
Those other kids lined up to be prayed on,
pastor sweating, tears drip from his pores,
turn to steam before cutting the surface—
tension punctuates our stories,
catfish big as cars swallow men whole,
Bobby Jo swinging from the Russell Bridge,
not making it home that night.
Every damn time I have water to my knees
I am swimming away from boys who want
to dunk me under, see me drown
and still come back for air.
No thank you, preacher man,
acid draining from the holes in your face,
soaked in your Sunday suit.
I see the stains,
and there’s not enough sludge
in this whole river
to wash us clean.