A Family of Mice
because a chain link fence of DNA tells her
to be afraid. What she doesn’t know, the sharpshock her mother received after each whiff;
her grandmother, too. We creatures can pass
our fears along, it seems, chemical shiftsin our strands. My father hid in the woods
before school, the only place safe from Khrushchev
and his pounding heel. Even then, at five, he knew
a desk couldn’t save him. A daily blessing, his parents
searched the creek bed for the crying boy—
sick mixing with dirt beside his freckled body.
Meanwhile my mother smoked away her sides, pinched
pillows of flesh under her arms and along her waist
until she could slip through a room like a specter.
She measured her sentences with her sustenance
and watched her own mother’s eyes narrow and glance.
When my father proposed along the creek, she grasped
the ring like a life raft. No raft can last forever. Now,
the pink pads of my feet carry me quiet from cupboard
to cupboard, kitchen to bedroom—at night, alone at last
in this house. I’ve sent my lover off to see his family.
I nibble an old pizza crust, flip the channels of our
muted set and let its light wash over me like fallout.