by Bronte Billings
Black hair leaks, Mama always
found her way through the drain.
Bedtime was about untangling the
bathtub braid. Slick with how many
layers, Stella and her sticky fingers
grasping at hairs, giggling. Oma would
douse her twice. A crone root twisted
wearily, waschen hinter den Ohren. She
would scrub sand between Stella’s toes,
picking broken shell pieces from her webbed
flesh. Night routines were a mystery. Meine Kind,
Ich erzähl Dir noch ein Märchen. Between
the bubbles, Oma had no soft edges, guttural
words that Stella liked to eat. She would bury
herself in the drain, knotted with black hair
and seaweed. A child can only hiccup imitations.
Märchen, fairytales only work after drained
tragedies. Oma spoke of Nixe, sang her old
stories to sweeten the bitter taste of soap
and dirty water. Stella imagined shipwrecks
crusting the bathtub’s porcelain, princes wrangling
stuffed coral pipes for princesses hanging from
faucets in salty drops. There is nothing to fix
old plumbing. Stuff the faucet with sand, Stella made
her mess in beaches. There was no Mutter
to keep from overflowing–Schlaf ’ schön.
Stella only had Mama, her bathtub miracle slinking
up her dirty beach drain to hold her tight.
Bronte Billings is a third year MFA candidate for the NEOMFA. She is a recipient of the 2015 & 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and recent recipient of the 2017 Leonard Trawick Award. Bronte has work forthcoming in Bone Bouquet. Born and glued to Ohio, Bronte enjoys the alliteration of her own name, binge writing, and the full moon at 2am.