Force of Habit

By Kathleen Winter

Featured Art: Girl Arranging Her Hair by Abbott Handerson Thayer

The woman in the Oldsmobile was awfully young
to have a kid, her kid would have said, if she’d had
a voice not just a body jittery inside her precious cotton
dress with ducks stitched in the smocked bodice
flat across her washboard chest. A woman’s hand
was every bit as flat when she had to slap somebody’s
face, so it wasn’t best sometimes to have a voice in case
you asked the woman one too many times how Seguin
was different from Saigon or where the dad had
gone or who was gonna fix the swing or when can we
get a collie or what’s the matter with twirling a lock
of hair around your index finger all day long it felt
so smooth & cool spooled round your finger &
released & caught & wound again, secured.
What’s wrong with messing with this living little
bit of you, a darling little thing. You couldn’t stop it
even if you wanted to.


Kathleen Winter is author of three books: Transformer (2020), judge’s selection for the Hilary Tham Collection imprint at The Word Works; I will not kick my friends (2018), winner of the Elixir Poetry Prize; and Nostalgia for the Criminal Past, winner of the Texas Institute of Letters first book award and the Antivenom Poetry Prize. She has been granted fellowships by Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Dora Maar House, James Merrill House, Cill Rialaig, and Vermont Studio Center.

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