An excerpt from The Rumpus Poetry Book Club‘s October selection,
American Treasure by Jill McDonough
forthcoming from Alice James Books on November 8, 2022
Jealous of Children
Not jealous of people with children, children being both
expensive and delicate, a vanity project, like collecting vintage
Porsches, breeding racehorses. But, worse, actually jealous
of the children themselves. My friend Marie’s feeling low, so
I tell her: in the middle of distancing I’ve become unhinged
with rage, pained by friends who I think don’t love me
as much as I love them, think they love even the CHILDREN
of their better friends more than they love me. Me: some second
preference, twice removed. So now I am jealous of little kids
just trying to muddle through a plague: pathetic! The kids
go fishing with my old friends. Marie asks if I’m making that up.
But I see it on Instagram, the tiny images making me wince, me
over here healthy in my happy marriage with my stable income,
so much love and books and homemade pizza, cookie dough.
Zooming in on kids with their smooth perfect skin and fish, touching
my friends who don’t text me back, kids who get to breathe in
their precious friend breath, leaning back, taking my friends’ bodies
for granted. Bodies forbidden to me now, bodies I didn’t know
how fiercely I loved. They are children in boats in cool water
in green shade that smells like rivers and I can’t even write about it,
because then my friends will know that I am crazy instead of cool
with it, whatever, just their chill friend who will be here, a fully grown
calm adult, when this is all over. Just over here driving stick, stirring
martinis, using the word “amortize” in a sentence. Gonorrhea! Goodfellas!
The Wire! Amuse-bouche! I can talk about shotgun kissing old boyfriends
in truck cabs, VW Cabriolets. Can some eight year old do that? I tell Marie
all of this, Marie a safe place in the pandemic to stash my smallest
shames. Or rather, my biggest shame: of being small. And Marie, god
bless her holy name, says Damn right you can. How many exes
can an eight year old even have, four or five? Amateur hour.
“Jealous of Children” (poem) from American Treasure by Jill McDonough, Alice James Books, 2022.