I want my little girl back.
I want her snuggling and grateful,
I want her too loquacious; I want to hear her ramble
until I press my hands to my ears and beg her stop.
I want her fenceless and guileless,
this daughter, so I don’t have to guess
what she’s hiding. I want to glide with her in a two-person kayak
through the rushes of the creek past the ducks and the lily pads
with all those white blossoms opening out into the sunlight,
past the dock-sitters dunking their feet,
past fishermen casting lures into shadows.
I want her to babble on like she’s only
four again and I’m the only one she’d pick.
I want that little girl so bad,
not this teenager confirming my worst fears,
showing me how little she cares about me
or anything except what
she wants right now. And when I find her, I’ll pull
that baby from the depths like I’m rescuing her
and I’ll resuscitate her through this adolescence, through
the bad-grade cries and the break-up cries and the I hate you cries and I’m moving
in with dad cries, too.
Because, dear lord, this teenager is wearing me
down to a dumb red heart,
thumping like a fish
in the bottom
of a boat.
Elizabeth Johnston is a feminist writer, teacher, and mother of two daughters. Twice-nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her poems appear widely, most recently in *New Verse News,* *Feminist Formations,* and forthcoming in *Women Studies Quarterly.* You can read more about her at her website, http://strawmatwriters.weebly.com/creative-publications.html, and find her on Twitter @libbyjohnston74.