Maxwell Food Centre (1997)

— Laetitia Keok

after Sharon Olds

you look at this woman in front of you &
you think you could not love her
more. she is beautiful. she could never be
more beautiful. you look at her & see
your entire life: four children, all beautiful,
the house we will cavity. let me tell you this.
she will only bear you two. you will only
love her for as long as you do not
have us. I will hate you for it. she will stay &
call it love, because she knows nothing else.
I will hate her for it.
my sister will be born hungry &
you will hate her for that—
hunger terrifies you. it is clear to me now.
if only, I think, she had wanted more.
I am sure you loved her once. you, now,
watching the woman who sits across you,
hair flaying the beauty mark on her right cheek,
is it memory that binds you?
the birthmark on her left calf,
her bellybutton before carnivore?
is it memory that betrays her? your hands
not yet switchblade, her knuckles not yet
bloated? what I would give to tell
all that I know now? my life, my sister,
my mother—
this woman in front of you—
I look like her, or she looks like me.
she is beautiful. I am beautiful because of her.
she is so young. you are so young.
you think this is love, but it will not be.
will you believe me? in the years to come,
you will swallow love & spit it out different.
deboned & hollow, you will leave
only cartilage & fear.
trust me, I have lived it all.
I am here to give us all a chance.
here, under these moth-flecked shadows,
there are lives not yet lived:
I am not yet your daughter.
she is not yet your wife.
you still love her.
there is still time.

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