Two More Poems by M. R. Mandell

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.
M.R. Mandell

M.R. Mandell is a writer living in LA with her husband & Golden Retriever, Chester Blue. You can find her work in Pile Press, Boats Against the Current, Chill Subs & others.

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