Ode to the B Side To the ones etched on the back. Tracks rarely heard, lyrics rarely hummed by pretty girls driving home from handsome dates, or frat boys road-tripping to the river. Never the wedding dance, seldom the theme song from 90s sitcoms starring shaggy-haired starlets, or Grammy’s golden choice. To the forgotten ones who bottom the charts. Scorned children, turned away from the crowd. Veined in leftover vinyl. I’m listening. Your fractured falsettos mimic mine when I cry hard behind a locked door. Your bastardized beats bolt me up when I’m too numb to step out of bed. Your ratty rhythms remind me I’m not alone on days filled with menace and spite. Thank you for dancing when boyfriends didn’t show, wiping my tears with your sleeve, for lullabying my shame to sleep. I adore you, B Side, with your broken ballads I flip over. Letter to Mom’s Little Girl Win, lose, or draw, Dad slithered home from the casino, spitting bourbon, smoke, venom at anyone who got in his way. Her tears dropped on to your nose as she tilted the bottle over your mouth. You were too young to understand, but you heard, you knew. Her split lips, bruised wrists, coffee burns, sunken eyes carted you through emergency rooms, police reports, welfare offices, food pantries, Section 8 housing, stacks of bounced checks, overdue bills, driveway arguments, slammed doors, divorce petitions. Government offices were your second home. Plastic chairs your bed, her lap your pillow. You peek-a-booed with security guards, organized her purse while waiting in line after line, took candy from strangers when she said it was fine. You toddled alongside her to JC Penney for her first job interview in twenty years, wrapped arms around her when the nice lady with white hair hired her on the spot, waved as she waltzed out that first day, stuffed tears till she cleared the door, ran to the ring when she called to say I miss you on her coffee break, tackled her when she paraded in after a six hour shift, brushed fingers over her lashes as she dozed off watching the news, peace carrying her into her dreams. She always called you her Little Girl, but you were big in so many ways.