By Ali Geren

When I was 11, I stood in the basement and screamed shit
as loud as I could, because it was the worst thing I could think of.
What I actually said was I’m sick of this shit, but the climax
of the sentence was definitely shit and since I’d never cursed
before, shit rose to the back of my throat, pressed there, resting, waiting
for the beginning of the sentence to bubble out of my mouth, fall out
in a rush, so it was less of the composed I’m sick of this and more a tangled
Imsickathis and then I took a deep breath, clenched both fists, and screamed it: shit.

Later, my mother said that it took everything in her
not to laugh, but at the time she only paused in her vacuuming
and looked at me like you’re sick of this shit—you have no idea
you ungrateful little fuck, turned off the vacuum
to shove a stick of Dial in my mouth for a full minute,
pointing to the timer she’d set, as if I’d dare spit before time was up.
So then any time I thought the word
shit in my head, my tongue burned
and I didn’t dare speak another curse word,
at least not where my mother could hear, not until I was 24,
standing across from her in the kitchen, at night,
when she curled her mouth around ho-mo-sex-u-al
like it was a bar of soap, bitter and burning her tongue, like our roles
had been reversed, her telling me she’s sick of this shit and me,
bitter and burning—Dial or curse words, just standing in the kitchen
whispering shit shit shit until the burning stopped.


Ali Geren is currently seeking her Master of Arts in English/Creative Writing at Missouri State University. She plans to continue her writing and teaching career at an MFA program in the next few years. Ali wants to make poetry accessible to an increasingly resistant public, with special interests in ultra-talk poetry and blurring the lines between prose and poetry. She and her cat continue to write poetry in Springfield, MO.