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"Queen of Wrath" by Russell Hehn

My 27-year-old mother is forever blasting down the bubbling asphalt of late-summer Mississippi in a sky-blue 1978 Mercury Cougar—so wide tractors make for the ditches, so long it touches dawn and dusk—throttling a Marlboro Red between pink fingernails and spewing alongside that tar-yellow smoke a bile of consternation through the lovebug-speckled windshield. A two-year-old me sleeps through her sermon to the pines washing over me about how wrong it is to live in a world with war in a country where weed’s illegal, of who slighted her at the last fellowship dinner stranding her with garbage duty, of her self-absorbed sister, of my father failing to refill the ice cube tray, of the heat, the bugs, this damn baby, this damn cigarette.

She is forever right and righteous, all-powerful. The trees bend their trunks away from us and breathe in her roiling wake. I do not cry. I sleep. I learn.

Rage greets us the same way—a hot creep, red in color and moving wild like smoke til it manifests on our shoulders, claws sunk in and scorching already like it’s been there all along.

I deny my own quiet rages of children and marriage and slights and fate and nothing at all and embroider tidy lines, my gentle loves, with fingers bursting through this keyboard, this desk, this home’s foundation, the heart of this soil, this fist of an earth, this pulpit for my children to thrash and stamp their feet. They sleep in the next room, learning too.


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