Dictionary Girl, They Called Her – Marianne Peel

She is such a smart little girl.  She doesn’t daydream about butterfly wings or the color of the sea bottom.  She doesn’t see elephant tusks bellowing in the clouds.  She doesn’t picture herself flying over tarred roofs balancing tea cups on her shoulders.  She doesn’t use two pussy willow branches to ease her way down the mountain without scraping her knees.  She doesn’t climb trees, one knothole at a time, just to get to the top branch where the scrub jays squawk.  She doesn’t scoot her bottom across the cottonwood log suspended over the creek of belching frogs. She doesn’t belly flop off the cliff’s edge into the lake of flamingos and Fig Newtons.  She doesn’t wear mismatched socks with her red plaid suspenders.  She doesn’t wear pink and white polka dot rubber wading boots to the park on a muddy August afternoon.  She doesn’t jump so high on the trampoline that her shorts split at the seams.  She doesn’t jitterbug outside in the thunderstorm without a umbrella.  She doesn’t unbraid her hair just to feel her fingers unravel the plaits.  She doesn’t unscrew the Oreo and ritual-eat the inside first, scraping the white cream off with her front teeth.  She doesn’t shove a Petoskey stone up her nose, just to see if it fits. She doesn’t crack her knuckles just to hear the pops explode.  She doesn’t slouch in the Lazyboy chair and eat Cracker Jacks out of the space between the cushions.  She doesn’t blow bubblegum so big that it explodes onto her cheeks. She doesn’t pick at her knee scab just to see the color of the blood on her fingertips. She doesn’t swim without a rubber cap, letting her hair sigh through the lake like a tangled web of moonbeams.  

Right now she sits still as the sky.  She types rhyming words on the typewriter in her brain, calculating the syllables. She is composing a Liar’s Dictionary.  She practices multiplication tables over and over in her head.  She can’t tell anyone that the 12’s are hard.  Really hard. Just too hard.

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash


After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit.  She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016).  Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Journal, Gyroscope Review, among others. Marianne was a finalist for the Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Contest (2020), and she was longlisted for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize (2021). Further, she received 3rd Place Poetry Award in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Contest.  In addition, her chapbook was a finalist in Comstock Review’s Jesse Brice Niles Chapbook Contest.   She has a collection of poetry, No Distance Between Us, published in 2021 by Shadelandhouse Modern Press.

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