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        Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Ode to a Girl in a Red Bikini
by Jennifer Thompson

Hey you, Barbie doll, as you roll your eyes at me and sneer, wave your manicured nails and drink your bottled water, I stick my tongue out at you. I might even wiggle it a bit. You wanna know why?

I lick. I lick the insides of Oreos and the filling out of doughnuts before gobbling the outsides up. I lick mango pits, juice running down my arms, dripping from my elbows into the sink and I suck butter like a euphemism off the ends of asparagus. I fellate corn dogs.

I lick the chocolate from the corners of my mouth with wicked glee.

You may have perfected the impression that butter wouldn't melt in your mouth, but strawberries burst in mine, staining my lips red, tart sweet juices running and perfuming my breath. I don't eat tictacs, ten calories of nothing; I eat M&Ms and let them soften in my mouth so I can play with soft chocolate before crunching the candy shells. I can lick the insides out. I've got a talented tongue.

I drink champagne like kisses.

I swallow honey wine and honeyed words and suffer the resultant hangovers and heartaches. I'll do it again, too.

I don't carry a fashionable handbag. What tiny clutch could possibly hold the weight of my day, the crayons, the bandaids, the loupe, the Leatherman that I need because I am not the lady with the lipstick and the credit card. Oh, no, I am emergency nurse and handyman, finder of lost keys and bargain socks. I wipe away tears and grimy fingerprints, pick up Legos and new skills, heal scratches with a kiss and heartbreak with a hug and my grandmother's words.

What stilletto mules could carry the weight of my world? My heels as are broad as my butt, good for balance in a world of layoffs, car accidents, hurricanes, war. My shoulders are broad and I've found that rayon shirts don't soak up tears as well as my crumpled cotton blouses do - comfortable, a little baggy, always in need of an iron. Designer labels tickle my neck. I rip them out.

I wear a bikini too. Mine isn't little just as my breasts aren't little. They jiggle like my hips, my belly, as I walk, short fat legs in platform boots. I wear fishnets because I like them, a mini because my husband does. You don't get a vote in what I wear. Neither does Vogue.

Let me lay my hands on your head, pretty girl, smear your lipstick, pinch your cheek, a maternal benediction. Bless you child, for being cute and pretty. I'll indulge you your red fingernails because someday your nails will be stained with berry juice and paint, fingers edged with calluses from writing or needlework. But only if you are lucky, like me.
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Jennifer Thompson is wife and mother, professional office drone and amateur writer. Daughter and granddaughter to academic deans and regional poets, she is contently and unapologetically living a life of absolute mediocrity in the suburbs.

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