You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

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You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

My mom smoked Virginia Slim Menthols
because she had come a long way,

baby, from a girl watching dirt and dogs
through cracks in the kitchen floor

while baking biscuits for men
who needed to sweat out a hangover

in the fields and then piss away
the week in the dark by a fence row

outside some loose busty woman’s
shack who could also see dogs

and dirt through cracks. By 1968,
when Phillip Morris targeted young

professional women, mom had three boys
of her own, electricity, a black-

and-white TV, and a husband who hauled
the mail. He came with health

insurance, a union, a linoleum-floored
house, and a mother who she

hated with all her heart, if only
for being that other bitch in the mix

who had a claim to everydamnthing right
down to the frying pans and combs.

In the late ’70s, the nursing-home-
incarcerated mother-in-law

was gone, the front of the house
was a beauty shop—where mom whipped

country wives’ hair into glamour
mounds for church—and the former

sharecropper’s daughter was working
on her GED. She only attended two

classes before the math became
a problem too hard to solve—those lines

triangles, and circles beyond
comprehension for someone who knew

already the quickest way between
two points was to light up

the past, drag like hell, and burn that
mutherfucker to the ground.

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