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Category: Nickole Brown

Fanny Linguistics: How to Say What You Mean

If angry, simple—say, That really pisses me off. But just frustrated? That burns me up. Or if that lawyer is after you and he’s all bent out of shape, you might decide not to pick up the phone, cause the more you stir shit, the more it stinks.

If your daughter finally did something right, like fix the cable box, say, Shoot fire, bout time, or you may want to give encouragement (you want her to hook up your VCR too) so snap your fingers, exclaim, Handle it, Roy! Handle it!

If someone tries to deceive you—a car dealer, rolling the Caddy’s odometer back, or your granddaughter, blaming a dent in that new car on a mango that fell green from your tree—say, Don’t you piss on my head and tell me it’s raining.

If winter, leave one window open, because you can’t stand being closed in, but make sure to fuss—It’s cold as a witch’s tiddy, and if below zero, the witch should be in a metal bra. If hot, you’re flashing, which happens most year-round, it will likely be hot as a dick, hot as piss, somebody get me a fresh Pepsi, crank up the air, quick.

If hungry, this one’s easy—I’m bout to starve—but if really hungry, add to death or my ass off. After two bowls of pinto beans and cornbread with green onion and sliced tomato and Frank’s Red Hot, you’re full, ask for your Tums, make a metaphor of your bloat to a tick, high up on a hog, about to pop.

If a lamp’s expensive, say, Shew, that’s high, and use the card, but if you could never afford it, not in a million years, that lamp’s as high as a cat’s back. Say, You can keep your money, I won’t let the back of your door hit me in the ass.

If a girl’s got pocked skin, buck teeth, and stringy hair, say God bless her, but if she’s gone off and given head to every boy in the eleventh grade, the whore’s heart might be peapicking, little, or worse—both—as in, God bless her little, pea-pickin heart.

Now, if something real sad happens to the lady next door—the cancer took over, there’s nothing left the doctor can cut away—say, Ain’t that a cotton-pickin shame, but if her husband’s running around while she’s pumped with chemo, close the door, talk only in a whisper, even if no one else is in the whole house. Start the conversation with I ain’t one to say nothing, but you wouldn’t believe; end with We better not say nothing, no, not a word.

If you’re the one brought low because that neighbor is your sister and you heard what’s in her tumor-blocked bowels has started to come out of her mouth, It ain’t worth going into, there’s nothing to say. Best to make the girls ammonia the chandelier and fluff the couch pillows and brush the shag rugs and windex the mirrored backsplash and take all the just-cleaned crystal down to clean again—This house is filthy. We ain’t discussing it. Now, leave me be. Hey, I bet there’s something good on the tee-vee. Don’t give me no shit now, really. Don’t you know Grandma’s had enough—enough of tears?

from Fanny SaysFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

For My Grandmother's Feet, Swollen Again

But for one pair of storebought boots,

   your two feet grew up barefoot

      with no idea you’d be bedridden,

        expecting for the last time at forty

your seventh child. And your sixth—

   your youngest daughter—my mother,

      would play shoe shop with a string.

        It’s her favorite story: how she laced

your feet with pretend ribbon,

   pretend satin, pretend lace,

      how she tied a bow and said,

        How about this pair, Mama,

would these do? I can’t say

   I was there, but the half of me

      that was round and fully formed

        nested in the mouth of her ovary,

waiting to be allowed down

   its long swan throat, and at times

      when I’m too sick to get out of bed,

        I curl the edge of a haunted sheet

between my toes to feel

   a pair of imaginary slippers

      made by a little girl who waits

        for me at the edge of my bed. This memory—

is it mine to have? My feet

   are three sizes too big, paddle feet,

      unpolished, feet that never bore

        the weight of child and might never

will. But still, when my body fevers,

   when I am weak, there is something

      bittersweet threading the loneliest part

        of me, something that says, Now,

it’s time. I’ve made you new shoes.

   Stand up.

from Fanny SaysFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Fanny Linguistics: Superstition

In Fanny’s house, there were ways of killing

someone by walking alone: I could step over

my youngest uncle sprawled watching TV,

could step over his boy heart or leg or arm—

it wouldn’t matter which—because unless you step back

over him, right quick, by morning he’ll be


Same goes for a bird let in the house—a sparrow

in the laundry room had wings

of the Great Scythe, and a black crow

tangled in the living room curtains could well wipe

the whole family out. And should you dream

of losing your teeth—that meant death

coming sure as an owl shits

tiny bones of mice in the middle of the night;

it was a full-on omen, start baking

the funeral casseroles now.

Funny, all that hoo-doo about dying with no intent

to remember the dead—how Fanny hated photographs:

I don’t take pictures, she said. It just makes me sad,

and if anything ever did happen

to one of the kids, I don’t want to be left

staring at their face.

from Fanny SaysFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2015
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

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