that year my mother made herself tall
with routine, nourishing and nourishing
my body, my bell inclined to pucker
empty and ringing. today my own
cool fingers button tight against throat,
its silence, years of a mouth’s refusal to open.
that spring she bartered tirelessly
with my stone teeth. in anger she stretched
inches red and redder, hoisted me up
onto the kitchen windowsill, overlooking the grass
below. my mother leaned close, said swallow
or be swallowed by the lawn. i looked at her.
who could save me from a love that forced me full?
first triumph of her spine, the only daughter
followed by son and son. from her palm she sliced
miracles for me and i balled each bite in my cheek.
long island, where i can’t remember a father
but in photographs, where uncles unfurled hands
to catch what i spat. we slept under stars
of artificial green, her hand pressing hymns against
my back. waiting now for spring to grow thin
with the day’s light. her voice rising heat through
the phone, pushing me closer to the birds. i boil rice.
measure damp years into jars. run a finger over each
rim until it sings something bodied and full.
whittled down to pocket, kept in careful proportion
to the hands i fell through. height as a matter of angle—
whether i lean into a sound or away.
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