Illustration by Beth

Illustration by Beth

Marla Miniano

Divorce Is a Dirty Word

Daddy bought us a condo unit—
Two-bedroom, fully furnished, brand new,
ready for occupancy—
on the other side of town, far from
the smell of Mom’s cooking,
the sound of her voice,
the sight of her face in the morning.

(They keep reassuring us it isn’t
our fault; it’s not like anybody
ever thought it was. We don’t talk
about the pajamas we left in the closet
back at the old house,
just in case. We don’t talk
about our sudden allowance raise,
the price of gasoline,
the cleaning lady who comes once a week
and turns on the television
for some ambient noise courtesy of a telenovela
about a mustached Don and his querida.)

Amenities include an Olympic-sized pool,
a modern gym with state-of-the-art equipment,
function rooms, free Wi-Fi,
24-hour security, guaranteed,
wide doorways and high ceilings built to accommodate
the elephant in the room.


There is a voice grown-ups reserve
for little boys and girls—they pull their words out of hats
and infuse them with joy and wonder,
transforming them into seesaws and swing sets,
cotton candy and carousels, toy trucks and train tracks,
bunny ears and doves. Sometimes one has to wonder
if they remember this voice from their own childhood,
from afternoons at the park waiting for rainbows
and magic, from houses with airy kitchens
and sunny porches, from their grandfather’s lap, his hands
leathery and smelling of smoke. One has to wonder
just how much they remember.

On rare occasions it is the same voice they use
on bigger boys and girls like us,
but those moments are so few
and far between that we tend
to forget, and anyway those voices are lost
to the sounds of slamming doors, engines
rumbling to life, fingers flying over a keyboard.

And yet, a promise: we will hear this voice again
from our own selves, in the future. We will reserve it
for people we love—
sad grown men and women who might need
to feel like children again—and we will take good care
of one another, because that is mostly what
we have learned through the years. We will listen
for the chance to recognize in one another
our smaller, simpler selves.

Someday our youth will be tiny, distant flags
behind us (it is hard to picture this,
but try), and we will tell our sons and daughters
that when the world is too big, and everyone
just wants to be larger than life, it helps
to feel little again.