My mother was a redheaded child / in the same decade Anne of Green Gables / and the Little Mermaid / were adapted into film. / The same decade her father / called her a bitch for the first time / and my grandmother swears / she was never the same. // My mother is the sum of everyone’s interpretation / of who she should be / and her own interpretation of how / to exist with the only role models she had, / not her mother who made her favorite / banana pudding on Thanksgiving / but made her sleep / in the garage on a half-inflated air mattress / in the summer in Houston, Texas / because she got a C / on her report card, / not her father who called her / a bitch when she went to wake him up / at 2pm because her mother / thought he’d respond better to his child, / who later, at fifteen, asked her to drive / a stolen car from one location / to another because if she got caught / the police might be lenient, / but the Canadian orphan who was / too different / to be accepted by her town / and teenager in love with a man / who eats her best friends for dinner, / gives up her voice and risks her life / for marriage and 2.5 kids and a picket fence. // So when my mother sat on the solid yellow line / in the middle of the four-lane street / outside of the lower-middle-class neighborhood / in the northwestern Houston suburb, / sat criss-cross applesauce at fifteen, / the police told my grandmother they couldn’t touch her / because she was a minor / and my grandmother said she hadn’t touched / her in years, / wouldn’t know where to start, / my grandfather said the last time / he touched her he slapped her / hard across the face / so she took his television / and ripped it from the wall and threw it / out the back door where it smashed / onto the deck so he stopped / touching her at least during football season. // And when we were growing up my mother told us / she didn’t love us until we were two or three / because babies don’t have personalities / and when my sister's middle school boyfriend / broke her heart my mom said / she didn’t “do hugs” / and that touching / wasn’t her thing. // My mother doesn’t speak to me anymore, / doesn’t know my dad told me / about the time they got out of the psych ward at fifteen / and she showed up at his doorstep / with a bag of clothes / and he made her sleep on the lawn / for three days, doesn’t know at seventeen / I showed up at a boyfriends / with nothing but a suitcase. // The last thing my mother said / to me was that I was just like / my father, and that’s why I’m unloveable. / My mother forgets the baby hairs / and cowlicks that don’t fit / into my ponytail are red.

Defiance is Genetic

Bleah Patterson

Bleah Patterson (she/her) was born and raised in Texas. Former evangelical, former homeschooler, former journalist, she believes in honoring every iteration of herself. She is a poet who sometimes writes prose, she explores generational and religious trauma, and is a current MFA candidate at Sam Houston State University. For what it’s worth, her mother says she’s a bad daughter but a good writer. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Brazos River Review; The Texas Review; the tide rises, the tide falls; The Hyacinth Review; and The Bayou Review among others.