was the name she called us, and what she meant was clumsy, graceless,
all assholes and elbows tripping up the steps, meaning:
Well, I don’t figure that child’s ever gonna learn to ride that bicycle,
how long she gonna perch stone-still on that thing, propped on the kickstand?
I bet Lottie here is scared she’s bound to bite the dust before she even leaves the drive.
Lottie, meaning, well, Lottie, you done broke your grandmama’s crystal bowl
in a thousand pieces, meaning you ain’t never had a summer in all your life
without scabbed knees, meaning absent-minded, plum-bruised,
the side of my leg catching corners, or meaning, as a book put it,
the absence of pleasure makes one clumsy, or in another text, a person post-
trauma can disassociate, quit paying attention, survive the crash soft-limbed,
like a drunk.
Laaa-Tee, sang two-tone, mountain-style, like a come-and-get-it-supper bell,
at times meaning you did something off-kilter, singed with violence,
like well, Lottie, whatever you did to that boyfriend of yours left dents
in the side of his van, or well, Lottie, I can’t believe you just blew the head clear off
your doll with that firecracker. Because yes, Lottie, you really did it this time, meaning,
at least you didn’t kill nobody.
There was a Lottie once, a real Lottie, way back in the family,
but she was crazy as a loon, spent her whole life at Central State with
her finger up inside her trying to grab men’s things. Lottie the nymphomaniac,
the queen masturbator, the gal that would fuck a snake if it didn’t
have a head on it. Lottie, imagined with wild red hair and mosquito-pocked legs,
the fists of her raw knees peeking out from under her tie-back hospital gown.
Lottie, the only woman who wanted it, who wouldn’t say
I’d rather toothbrush the kitchen floor on my hands and knees, wouldn’t say
I’d just as soon set my hair on fire, wouldn’t whisper
I counted each and every rose on the wallpaper before he was through,
or I’d rather pluck my puss hairs out one-by-one than deal
with him tonight, all said in half-jest, a joke hollered down from their teetering
pedestals, making the men rooster up, all said making one thing clear:
I ain’t no Lottie, ain’t no loosey-goosey hot-pants whore.
But I can’t help but wonder, can’t help but make up something
for our Lottie, something to do with a house on stilts in the holler
and a father who took her right under the floorboards where
her mother stood, but who knows, she could have pulled her budding
breasts out for Captain Kangaroo, she could have smeared herself
with oatmeal and rubbed herself raw on the old tweed couch,
a tarpaper ten-cent trick, for all we know—
which is nothing,
which is Lottie is the name she called us, and if you’re not
a Lottie then you’re hands-and-knees down on the floor, that if
what happened to you
doesn’t make you one way, it will make you
another, that you won’t exist at all
or you’ll be
you bride, you hole, either tripping up the porch steps
or crawling to hide under them,
hot with a match
catching on the old wood planks.
Nickole Brown is the author of Sister: A Novel in Poems and the forthcoming collection, Fanny Says. She was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson and worked at Sarabande Books for ten years. Her work has appeared in Bloom Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Post Road, Diagram Magazine, The Oxford American, and storySouth. Currently, she is the Editor for the Marie Alexander Series in Prose Poetry and lives in Little Rock, AR, where she is the Assistant Professor of poetry at University of Arkansas at Little Rock.