George Ella Lyon

What Trouble Is

A fly buzzes insistent at the window
in the still, hot enamel upstairs 
bathroom of my grandmother’s house
where I sit, nine years old,
stomach cramped
on the pot
and she holds out the box. 

“Well, Miss Sorrows of the World,”
she says to me,
“Dr. Begley gave you this Tootie Box.
Can’t you squeeze something out
to put in it?”

The hurt in my gut,
the twist, is my mother out
of town and the way this woman 
mothered her.  But I don’t know
that and I’m afraid to speak.
My grandmother laughs.

“The trouble with you,” she says,
“is you don’t know
what trouble is.”


George Ella Lyon’s most recent books include Many-Storied House: Poems and Voices from the March on Washington, a collection of poetry for young adults, co-written with J. Patrick Lewis. A native of Harlan County, Kentucky, Lyon makes her living as a freelance writer and teacher based in Lexington. She served as the state’s Poet Laureate (2015-2016).


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