The Coup

My mother in all her armor
which so rarely came off—her laws, her decrees,
her look that said, Don’t ask me for anything
before I could ask for anything, that roared
Off with her head! when I asked anyway.
Thus once—in a rare show of defiance—I said,
Then I want to call my father.
And even now I can’t believe the words came out of my mouth.
My father, a man my mother had never acknowledged,
whose absence was treated no differently in our house
than, say, not having a cat or washer and dryer.
She looked terrified, like a dictator threatened with a coup,
like a lonely despot betrayed by her most trusted servant,
like a single mother, catching three buses to work,
no idea how she could be the bad guy.

Valencia Robin, “The Coup” from Ridiculous Light. Copyright © 2019 by Valencia Robin. Reprinted with the permission of Persea Books, Inc (New York), All rights reserved.