Separation by Jeremy Windham


Dad shouts at my mother from the driveway,
his truck hiccups then roars away from us
and I kick a rock to the grass with my bare foot.

We stand in our garage long after he is gone.
Mom covers her mouth with one hand and uses
the other to press my sister and I into her
heaving chest until the lights flicker out above us.


Cold water doesn’t bother me. I swam with Dad
last week at my grandparents’ community pool
and watched him form an “O” with his mouth
when he lowered his hairy ankle below the surface,
but I did a cannonball and didn’t even flinch.


The doctor holds my foot to his face and presses
a Q-tip to the black lump on the tip of my big toe.
Mom says not to squirm. I squeeze Dad’s hand
when the doctor lays my foot down, he says,
“That, ladies and gentlemen, is one ugly wart.”


Mom scratches milk from her list and pushes the cart,
she gives me five minutes in the Halloween aisle.
Every rubber mask smells like warm salt and raisins;
I search for my father and find him in a werewolf,
I touch the snout’s black fur and trace the eye-holes.


I read before bed and when I sound out
a word I can’t pronounce I throw my book
into the hallway’s stomach and turn off
my bedside lamp. The world dissolves
like the throbbing frozen wart on my big toe.

The next morning I pour Count Chocula
into a bowl, I eat the mini-marshmallows first.
My cat paws at my legs under the table, I look
and find baby skin where the wart used to be,
soft and new and pink.


Now when I take baths at night I fill the tub
with cold water and pretend my legs are hairy,
then I drop my foot inside and wrench it out.
I make an “O” with my lips but I never mean it.

Jeremy Windham is currently an undergraduate student at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas where he studies writing and music performance. His work can be found in HUMID, The Blue Route, Psaltery & Lyre, and is soon to appear in Steam Ticket Review.