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Because There Will Always Be People You Don’t Get Along With

by Amelia Martens

Daughter, I draw on the medicine
cabinet mirror in toothpaste: a dot.

This is you, I say and then I draw
a circle around the dot, around you.
This is what you can do alone

what you already know. Then
I draw a larger concentric circle:

this is what you, dot, can do
with help. This space in between
is the zone of proximal development.

You wiggle next to me, just tall
enough to see the dot and circles:

you say, I do not like that space.
I do not want to be in a reading
group with those girls. I say what

my mother said, what she repeated
to me, to you: there will always be

people you don’t get along with.
They never go away. You need
to learn, to start learning now

how to navigate that space
the zone where you grow

and you tell me it might be
impossible, a desert.
And I say, sometimes

it rains for days
in the desert.

Growth is often difficult. Much of my work grows out of the moments I fumble as a guide to our two daughters. I fluctuate between wanting our daughters to have enduring faith in the goodness of people, and the desire for them not to be sideswiped. This poem is a conversation I had with our oldest, last year, when the crushing social structures of the world appeared suddenly in 3rd grade. In my family folklore, I also had a difficult time in 3rd grade—it was a point where I realized that the world isn’t just and people can be terrible. As a mom, I realize how little I know; often the why questions end back at the beginning of the universe. In this going to bed talk, I ended up on another family mantra: you win some, you lose some, and sometimes it rains. I’m hoping our daughter interpreted that last image as things aren’t always as they initially appear.

Amelia Martens is the author of The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat and four poetry chapbooks. She is the recipient of a 2019 Al Smith Individual Artist fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council; her work has also been supported by a Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowship to Rivendell Writers’ Colony and by the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She met her husband in the Indiana University MFA program; together they have created the Rivertown Reading Series, Exit 7: A Journal of Literature and Art, and two awesome daughters.