A Poem by Patricia Lockwood

The Pinch

I said out loud for the first time ever, I want to deface a car. I wanted other things too, as it happened — the things I wanted were so specific.

You see I was looking at the bodies all day. The unrolling skins of the politicians. Due to recent developments I could see every pore, and a moistness at the corner of the eyes.

I thought I would like to make that moistness.

The speaker of the house came on, I thought I want to forcibly remove every piece of beard from your body.

The counselor to the president came on, I thought I am going to unbend you like a Barbie knee, until you make that creak.

These were new thoughts. Before, it had always been myself that I imagined: slashed to ribbons, pressed to the griddle, spinning on the tip of a sword. Peeled like a grape for a haunted house.

But now the feeling had been let out. A pure pinch between two fingers, and shocking how soft it was.

A brazen desire to deflate the turtle, to surprise him to the point of squealing, to pop the lenses out so he couldn’t find his way to school.

To rip the suit off stitch by stitch and burn it in one of those cans that homeless people and gang members are always warming their hands over. In the movies.

Where do you buy baseball bats, I asked.

Is there a store that sells only the red spray paint.

The secretary of education came on, I saw her clinging to an oversized novelty pencil as she went over Niagara Falls. I had somehow engineered this, through my cleverness.

The attorney general came on and I thought I will aim the ray and shrink you down and put you in a model train scenario. In a hat with blue stripes, which will be your hell.

The former governor of Arkansas came on, I thought I will sit on you like a fart cushion until you have bllbbted your last bbblpptdt.

The White House chief strategist came on the screen, I said I will feed you pieces of nazi memorabilia one by one until you start to gurgle. I want them to find you wearing Eva Braun’s bra.

The second in command appeared, and I thought, what I do to you, they will name it the Indiana.

My hand was shaking, it was a fist, inside it was the shape of a human being I had squeezed into a chess piece until it could not move, it could not move against us.

What us, my parents voted for him.

When I was very young, in the house with the swing set, my mother put me in charge of one of the sweet shampooed Lauras that she babysat, whose ponytail slid like fresh runoff down one shoulder. I thought hazily, she must know that I mean business, then swung a diaper bag square at her trusting rump, whomp, and raised my voice and said you go sit in time out!

Until I say!

This means I have the seed in me, or something.

You need to learn to defend yourself, my mother told me, and so the next time my brother snuck up to torment me I dug my nails into his forearm until I almost broke the skin, and my father said, I always knew you were nasty.

The first lady stood at the podium and I thought, I will plant you very very deep, until your head is a sunflower even Kansas doesn’t like.

The wife I didn’t picture doing anything to, it had all been done already. Her teeth were broken from eating jewelry.

The son I actually wept to see — the unscripted movements of his hands were so familiar. Due to recent developments, my tears were brighter than usual.

Still the bodies continued. It was no longer enough to think they had once been babies, that seeing them I would have become a thousand tickling fingertips and not this flashing kit of sharp things.

I felt myself a sack of what could happen, while all around me flew soon-to-be-history.

Then the husband himself marched onscreen, and a great sound opened in my mind like a pair of scissors and I said I am going to do it, I am going to cut your hair. I will lift up the longest strand and snip, will chase you to the roof of your own self and slice like the wind through your last hiding place. In America you can be anything, suddenly I was anything, my nails broke the skin of his arm. He opened his mouth and I said, I’m condemning your building for rats. I’m going to put you in a bed at the border, I am going to brutally cut your lunch, I am going to remove the word big from you, surgically, I am going to tighten your silk, past pink and blue to purple, I am going to make you young again, at the moment when you said she must know I mean business, I am going to take a lighter to the money, I am going to snap the golf club on my knee, I am going to lift the daughters off your lap, every one, I am going to leave a thumbprint in all that gold

Which is so soft, remember


Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy (Riverhead Books) comes out in May. She is the author of two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, a New York Times Notable Book.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.