Difference

By Sara Moore Wagner

Featured Art: Floating Guy, collaboration between Passion Works Studio (Athens, Ohio) and Colores del Alma (Chile)

When I used to read my son the book
where the outcast girl becomes friends
with the alligator, where they dance
in the sewer to the burt-burp of her
tuba, I would imagine he was the gator,
that one day he might find someone
to teach him not to put everything
in his mouth, to go into the water
where he’s meant to return—when
I read my daughter that book, suddenly
I see the girl, tiny soft body in the mouth
of the gator, being pulled down into the
swamp with her tuba blaring. And
the story has always been about this gator,
how he’s not meant to live in regular
society, how neither is the girl so they
find each other and even though he eats
all the local dogs, he leaves her alone
and she saves him. When I am walking
with my daughter downtown, a man
comes up to me and moves his hands
around in my face, gestures at
my daughter until I’m lying
on the sidewalk with my arms around her,
folding her into me like a pair of socks
in a suitcase, like a lolling tongue into
a mouth. And I’m yelling at the construction
workers come help me—and they do,
rushing out in their orange vests. And I think
in that book, these would have been the villains;
in that book, my girl would have risen and danced
for the man who wanted to pull her out of me
like a tooth, would have shown him how to live
in the civilized world, how to cover
his fangs, let them out at night when the slow
lull of the Ohio river takes them so far away
from her home, from her mother that he
thinks about his nature. How even this
little make believe world wasn’t built
for the girl. How even still, it’s my girl’s favorite
book. How even still, I read it.


Sara Moore Wagner lives in West Chester, OH with her husband and three small children. She is the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award, and the author of the chapbook Hooked Through (Five Oaks Press, 2017). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals including Waxwing, The Cincinnati Review, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, Western Humanities Review, and Nimrod, among others. She has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart prize, and Best of the Net. Find her at www.saramoorewagner.com

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