Jenniey Tallman

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1.         come         

in Lake Wobegon there are no trailers          
—come home

there are no 9-year-old girls
alone in trailers
—come home

on beautiful summer
days not fishing with
their dad, sister, & step

mother. Come Home.

a craggy voice lulls you
to a childhood you never lived
listen long enough to replace
yours with ice fishing, Lutherans,
and hot dish: come home.

in Minnesota, things
your 9-year-old mouth refuses
to wrap around do not happen

say aliens. say devil. say mono-
come home.     Our Father,
who art in a cassette tape.


2.         home          

in third grade I had not heard
of Lake Woe Be Gone
when I peed on the floor
in math class: the combination

FEAR + SHAME(not knowing
                               my times tables).

Jennifer Loney! I said what is
seven times six?

In answer Mister Teacher, let me offer
this puddle on your floor, perhaps it knows.

Wearing blue sweat pants belonging
to JR Hinkman, who'd puked 3 weeks
earlier, and carrying my wet pink corduroys          
around—come home—in a plastic
bag. Other kids had parents who'd
bring them clothes from home
when they peed and puked at school
but JR and me, we wore other kids'
clothes and forgot ours at school,
too tired to carry our plastic bags anymore
and no body even noticed we left
in different clothes than we returned in—

Come Home.

3. [Come Home]         

so I went home and made myself 

a tape recording of my voice
repeating all the times tables

         one times one is one
         one times two is two

(don't skip the easy ones)

         one times three is three

all the way to eight times seven is fifty-six
and nine times nine, eighty-one!

all night through I listened on repeat                     
until morning they were planted
smooth on my tongue and yes

all manner of bad things may happen
from nine until nineteen
         but by God and Garrison
         Keillor himself

I'd answer seven times six
is forty-two and in this way
even nine would be pacified

come home.


This poem is part of a larger hybrid project combining CNF, poetry, and erasure. It began because I needed to get out of my head and away from my keyboard. Here is a prompt: What humiliation, small or large, kept you fretting as a child? Empathize with yourself. Erase the enemy.