Normal

There’s a town in McLean county, IL—
not to be confused with the neighborhood
of Normaltown in Athens, GA, the latter

immortalized by the new wave band called
The B-52’s in their song “Deadbeat Club,”
with lyrics about teenagers having nothing

better to do than loaf around in little
cafes. How incredulous to see how normal
was supposed to be the families we watched

when finally (last house on the street)
we got black & white TV— father & mother
& five or six children living in small

towns, working on the farm or at
the lumberyard, running in at the sound
of the dinner bell; saying grace, saying

goodnight before one by one the lights
in the upstairs windows went out. Normal
was supposed to be young newlyweds

giving up their honeymoon money
to help keep a local bank solvent during
the Depression, & a second class

angel in a crumpled linen smock
dispatched to save an upstanding family
man from falling into despair. What

could we call what happened almost every
day in our home when I was growing up?
For the longest time, I thought

what we had was normal— waking up to see
breakfast dishes hurled to the floor,
the percolator raised like a lamp

in grandmother’s hand, mother cowering
by the door. Wild sobbing an orchestral
accompaniment to blows rained on a wall.

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