Jennifer Denrow


I was a little girl in Missouri. I was a little girl in Tulsa. My family was wild. My brother was born. My family members were wild wolves. We owned many paintings. We kept our beliefs inside of the paintings. My mother nearly died. She went to the academy. Many people from town visited. They were affirmative. I had long feet like my mother. I was not insensitive to punishment. Everyone was a beautiful person. After they got in trouble, they sulked beautifully. My brother liked circles. My best friend’s mother was a prostitute. We hid cigarettes in the sewer. I climbed a school hill every day. My grandfather was a railyard man. The neighborhood was full of alcoholics. At Christmastime my grandmother would cook big Midwestern dinners. We traveled to Omaha for the horseraces. I wasn’t good at understanding biology. I had a friend who fucked a hot dog. It got trapped inside her. We were very sexual. My brother burned his body. I had an aunt at the lake who chain smoked. At recess we searched for murderers in the woods behind the school house. I saw ghosts. When we moved into our house dead cats were stuffed into the walls. One game we played was called rape. We hid cigarettes in the school woods. My grandmother put her face on in the car driving to work every day.

My uncle was wild. He was a Navy man. He drank too much. Acne scarred his body. He was hit by a truck. He worked for the water department. He drank himself to death. He had dark rage. He recited Dylan Thomas. He drank until he was immobile. He lived in Japan. He took me for walks in the school woods. Alcohol ate him up. He was a genius. He lived in California. He had a wife named Cindy. He wrote serious poetry. He died inside a motel.

Some of the neighbors died. The neighbors were wild gamblers. Larry was a Shriner. Vera died. Bev covered everything in plastic. Clarence groomed his yard. Bob owned a boat. His head was bleeding one day. Lyn owned a bird. She was a cosmetologist. She married her father when her mother died. She was adopted so it wasn’t gross. None of the neighbors cared about water. Kathy left Leo and moved in with Larry. Larry was Lyn’s father. Lyn had sex with Michael in the swimming pool. Robyn and I watched through the window. Michael was Renee’s husband. Jan counted bologna. Pat hosted New Year’s Eve parties. John lived next door. He was married to Jan. I wanted to sleep with him.

At a haunted house one year, a man walking behind me, reeking of booze, held me around the waist. As we walked through the dark, he unbuttoned my shirt and started rubbing his hands against my small breasts. I let him do it. I wasn’t scared. I never told anyone about it. Every night when I was going to sleep, I would replay that scene over and over.

The first time someone kissed me it was Chucky Lee. He forced me on the ground on the concrete slab in my backyard and kissed me while I closed my eyes. The first time someone kissed me that I wanted to kiss me it was Jamie Zwicky, who lived at a motel at the Lake of the Ozarks. He smelled like fried fish. He kissed me first at the wall and then in the swimming pool. I threw up after he kissed me because it made me so nervous. The next time we went there, I brought a friend so his friend had someone to kiss and we went into his trailer behind the motel and kissed on the beds.

Jennifer Denrow is the author of California (Four Way Books). She lives in Colorado.

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