The Visit; Single Mother; Stepfather; Tonya

The Visit

This 5 year old child
Made to stay with stranger father
Shrinking from stepmother drudgery
She screams “Sit on your daddy’s lap!”
But my daddy’s back in Tulsa-
The one who made me come to this broken-down farm
Where chicks walk under my feet 
And are crushed dead
And I’m yelled at for killing the yellow fluff
Who quacks and is forever quiet
Where cows step backward crushing my toe
Eliciting sharp pain-again it is my fault
For placing my foot where it doesn’t belong
And it dawns on me that I don’t belong
In this town on this farm with a stranger
Who says he is my father
Single Mother

She was airlifted out of Muskogee
with 200 dollars in her pocket 
and a small child under each arm.

Bosses hired her as a secretary for sale
sent her home each Christmas with a box
full of sausages, hard cheeses and crackers filled with seeds.

Boyfriends crawled out from under
steel enforced frames ready for arm-twisting
dates and threatening stances.

Apartments allowed a sort of recluse
from outside barbarity until the woman 
from upstairs began screaming for her sanity, 
and moving became necessary, 

Neighborhood children created 
an atmosphere of terror
screaming at her babies that the devil's going to get them
and booger eating people were going to hell.

Bouffant hair teased to the quick promised showers
of hairspray rain causing hands to flip 
invisible objects off her shoulders,
a forest given to hiding bobby pins perfect 
for opening doors locked  by temper tantrum children

She touched down on an idea 
far removed from her dream,
created memories for small children
to swallow as their own.


My sister and I linked together,
sharing a tremble between us,
walking toward hell after school,
unknowing whether the demon 
will be visiting our house,
or maybe he’ll be at work
and we’re safe turning this corner
until 6 o’clock madness.


3,4,5 times around the table, 
he grabs her hair and pulls back, 
eyes red with vacant look.
Her mother screams, 
her stepfather ignores 
and punches her in the face 
6 times.
If only she had gotten off that damn couch, 
even though she had worked for twelve hours 
at the amusement park.
She was tired, achy, 
found release in fleece blanket, 
“Can’t we do it in the morning?” she begged.
He stood over her trembling, 
not understanding how someone could deny him-  
not given into his demands-  
would not surrender to his power-  
so she became a flower being plucked, 
petals falling with each punch.
Somehow, in the core of her body, 
her mother freed her from the demon, 
pulled her to safety out the backdoor, 
into the neighbor’s yard, 

down the street and to the front bell 
where I sat with neighborhood children.  
If only she had gotten off that damn couch 
and checked the oil.


Entombed, my sister and I,
in bathroom darkness,
our stepfather screams at our mother
through my own screams
“I want my daddy!”
Telephone, shoes, hangers,
hit the shut door,
the entrance to their room.
Rivers from my eyes stain
a pink Easter dress,
worn for this day.

She and I were aliens from another world
Her large black mutt was the master king we served
Our faces for the outer world were disguises
We showed our true form only to each other in a ruse
Of face gestures, hands swept across our features.

At bedtime, during stay-overs, Listerine became gin
Bathroom doors stayed locked as we kept our mouths full
Pretended to savor the taste of liquor
The sink counter, our night-time bar and place
Where we picked up our men.

Bicycle rides were times to transport
Our imaginary children from school to our homes.
Hopefully her mother would be absent
And we would sit at the kitchen table sipping
Kool-aide as coffee, discussing problems with our children
Messed up marriages and disappointed dreams.

Eventually her family moved away.
Her popularity did not fit with our plans of creativity;
I was forced to become the only living alien
The barfly at the counter
The disappointed mother.
Eventually I had to grow up too.


Shelley Nation-Watson is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and has recently begun to write about the experience of her grandmother and other members of her family as they lived through their struggles in Cherokee Nation territory in Tennessee and Alabama to the Canadian District in Oklahoma.