by Michelle Brooks

Before the puppet show, Melissa and I split
a stolen Valium. As the children gathered,
a dreamy feeling descended on the eighth
grade me, benevolence for all I saw—the cheap
hand puppets, a mouse, and giraffe who
became Jonah and the whale. I put my mouse
into the mouth of Melissa’s giraffe while God
waited for Jonah to get himself right. He’d
run from Ninevah only to suffer. Brother
Buddy complimented us on our performance,
telling me that longsuffering was my fruit
of the spirit. I didn’t sound good, even medicated
against harm and boredom. I didn’t know then
that you didn’t have to be swallowed whole,
that you could swallow the whale and not
know you were trapped by what was inside you.

Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit. She has recently completed a poetry collection, Flamethrower.

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