I'm A Dalmatian

November 6, 2008
By Mara Flanagan, Pittsburgh, PA

And I went to a friend’s house on her birthday
in white sweats embroidered with perfect circles
stitches looping each one into the fleece cautiously,
threatening to give way to the weight of the felt.
I pounced around,
Super puppy next to
Plastic bag Powerpuffs
and China-birthed Barbie-princess-Fairy-queen-butterfly-doctors
and everything was cool because
I had a mommy-made costume.
I got home and was sitting on the navy carpet Covered in shoe dirt and dropped food.
“Take your costume off”
Mom said and I screamed,
Tore off every black spot
With stroke after greedy stroke,
Water in my throat
As I got closer and closer to trouble
And mom watched with salty eyes
The ruthless dismemberment
And all I remember
Is letting the pockmarks fall to the floor, Onto the permanent Mommy record.

At ballet class
the other leotards
moved in a spandex unison
marked by shimmering bodices
and pointed toes.
their conscription to an instructor
calling out orders
bothered me and I wanted to teach,
not learn.
So I’d hobble on shaky satin
to the front of the room
and my flushed face
caught in the mirror
tapped on the teacher’s shoulder
and told her that I had a better move.
I absolutely did.

1st through 4th grade
I was a homework screamer
tossing folders
and pencils onto the kitchen floor,
lunging for the door when it was time for work,
yelling in my parents’ faces
clawing at the stairwell as I was carried upstairs
tears dripping onto my reddened fingers
as my voice ripped through the house
“let me go! I know, I know!”
I knew
I would not be told what to do!
I could use backward R’s because
Toys “R” Us did it
and I knew everything there was
to be taught
the world was all around me
easy to understand.
I couldn’t tell you east from west
but I knew the path.
I couldn’t tell you left from right
but I knew my dominant hand.
I couldn’t tell you cursive from manuscript
but I could write my own story.
I knew where I wanted to go
and no one would tell me how to get there.
I don’t know where I want to go
and no one will tell me how to get there.

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