The Tin Man Explains by Lynn Domina

The Tin Man Explains

Anyone would wonder how I got this way, hungry as all get out, my belly
banged up, rust dribbling like drool from my dislocated jaw, my fingers
creaking with every wave, barely able to squeeze a straw. But I say never
doubt the determination of a good girl to miscomprehend a bad situation. You’re the finest
example of an exoskeleton I’ve ever seen, she says, as if we ladled up crayfish and crab,
fetching our dinners from some wretched bayou instead of reliable Kansas with its Bible-style plagues,
grasshoppers, katydids, gophers. Prairie dogs make a dandy barbeque,
humble to the point of humiliation. Pepper covers a multitude of sins, mustard too.
I don’t go in for the fancy stuff anyways, foreign looking and suspicious, a regular
jamboree of ingredients, bits and nibbles all mixed up mongrel-like.
Kitchen chores never did scare me off—all you need’s a frying pan,
lard, a plucked chicken. Potatoes. Onions. Maybe some peas.
Maybe not in the dead of winter when dried beans will have to do, or maybe
not always so meager if you can keep your opinions quiet about your brother’s wife’s cooking,
or if you can stop sipping whiskey one shot before you can’t keep quiet.
Practice holding your tongue if you can’t hold your liquor is my new motto, even if you’re seldom
quarrelsome sober. She tells my brother I’m still heartless. Here’s another new
rule: when said sister-in-law asks you to take out the garbage, don’t
say, you cooked it, you take it out. It’s amazing what it doesn’t take
to tip a drunk man down the stairs, still dreaming of dessert, huckleberry pie, pineapple
upside down cake, peanut butter cookies. Three months now of nothing but milk, broth,
villainously weak coffee. You’d think a man’s own brother seeing what he’d done
would’ve felt a speck of remorse and called a paramedic, but no
x-rays seemed necessary for a tin man. The clatter was horrendous of course and that dog
yap, yap, yapping half an hour afterward. But there’s nothing to be done for them, nada,
zero, zilch, those folks who just won’t take a good-natured joke.

Lynn Domina is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her more recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, Saranac Review, and other periodicals. She is the creative writing editor of The Other Journal and currently lives in Marquette, Michigan, along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior.