After mama stops selling encyclopedias

Frankie McMillan

… we don’t go out in the car anymore but we’re allowed to turn the house into another country; hauling down curtains, throwing blankets over the table — encyclopedias on top to keep the blanket from slipping — and then crawling real careful underneath to our new country where we eat oranges and any other fruit that grows there in the dark and my brother whispers that a palm tree can grow 180 coconuts a year and my sister whispers, bet you don’t know why the shell has three tiny holes and we all freeze when there’s a knock at the door and one of mama’s boyfriends steps inside, smelling of Lucky Strikes and mama says, don’t mind them kids, what have you brought me, and then their footsteps go down the hall and we have to be quiet and my sister slides out the side of the blanket to see if the boyfriend has left food in the kitchen and light slashes through the gap and we draw back as if it could kill us but no one speaks, only whispers, that’s the rule, we could be in Hawaii or the Honduras but no one speaks, that’s the rules mama says for doing things to her house, for turning things upside down while she’s with her boyfriend in her room, while that big bed knock, knock, knocks against the wall, while we hope that mama doesn’t come out later with a black eye, while we hope mama crawls in under the table between us and we all lie there together in the tropics, listening to the palm trees, the falling coconuts.


Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her latest book, The Wandering Nature of Us Girls (Canterbury University Press) was published in 2022.