“mommie,” she says, “i’ve never seen you and daddy
“Of course you have,” the mother says;
“you’ve just forgotten.”
“i wouldn’t have forgotten that,” she says,
“because i always wish you would.”
“it doesn’t matter,” her father says. ‘’we
both love you and we love each other in our
“you’ve seen us kiss,” the mother says.
“not on the mouth. not the way people
kiss on your soap operas.”
“your mother and i have been together
nearly twenty years,” her father says.
‘’we did a lot of kissing in our time.
that’s why we have you and your brother,
“maybe you did, but you don’t now.”
their daughter says.
the father says, “your mother and i sleep
in the same bed. we do our best to get along
and we have our love for you and your brother
in common. there are things we have come to
understand that you will someday also understand.”
this almost satisfies her, but she adds,
“i think you wish that mommie still kissed you.”
the mother says, “if you’re finished eating,
you may leave the table.”
Gerald Locklin, one of the central figures of America’s underground poetry scene, is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry and fiction. An emeritus professor at California State University, Long Beach, he still teaches an occasional class in poetry. “Learning to See Crooked” is from his collection Children of a Lesser Demagogue, which was published as a double issue of Wormwood Review, copyright 1987, and is reprinted by permission. The author’s photo is by Barbara Locklin.