Things My Mother Gave Me [That I Did Not Ask For]

shoulder pads
a cigarette burn on my left shoulder
her middle name
a battle with me at the middle
second helpings of mashed potatoes
too little pride to succeed, too much to ask for help
how to win Monopoly
how to cheat
how to cheat the system
Nintendo 64
an excuse for asking:

“Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Really, are you sure?”

love

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Sonnet after Sylvia Plath’s “Metaphors”

This house of fine fruit, melon,
the yeasty tendrils

I’ve eaten
a two train riddle 

boarded new-minted apples
in a loaf’s bag
with O syllables: 
off, on. No big —

getting fat, in calf-cow stage
I’m a rising nine, 
strolling in red timbers — 
I’m fine 

means
still green.

4

What makes a favorite number is enigmatic.

The answer to how many blades of grass
whistled between my thumbs
on that hazy summer afternoon,
bored to death, but still sweating
only childhood — how many didn’t?

The rhythm of counting clovers by color
white, white, red, blistering red
not minding the stinger,
on the instep of my index finger,
which proved the sweetest score.

The shape of that room in my memory
with unpainted concrete sidings —
aged into a mosaic of brown specks
of old blood — that seemed to fall in
no matter how I squared them.

My favorite number is four. There is no reason for it.
It is just how it is, so far as I know.



Persephone

My therapist asked me to write a letter to you, not to send, but to put at the back of the silverware drawer.

Eventually, we hope that I stop looking for you there—
in my upside-down reflection on a spoon;

and learn to separate my body image from your body.
It has been 20 years, yet I still carry this image of you

in stepmother’s kitchen,
playing at the “Don’t touch!” stove,
by no rules about sugar;
cracking eggs, stirring batter.


Not even a sugar high could redeem this grown-up day.
There is cake in the break room, and singing:
“I really shouldn’t eat this, but” harmonized with
“You’re so thin, how did you do it?”

without her knowing,
you licked the bowl
with measured sensuality
and unconscious desire.

And there’s still something sensual about feeling the weight
of an egg in my hand, holding the threads, like the tail
of a blackhead, longer than they’re meant to be held onto;
until the white slips through my fingers,

and all that’s left is the yolk of it. The heaviest part
of letting go is accepting everything just as it is,

and waiting— for a soft boil,
you dropped your hard-
-shelled heart
and a hint of vinegar.


And I still use bitterness to cope with my cracking,
tasting for your buttermilk skin,
porous as a pancake;
its texture is impossible to reconcile.

It has been 20 years, yet I still struggle
to embrace the absoluteness of your body
becoming my body,
and hold the shell of you up to my face.