at that woman in the diner wearing
a sumo wrestler coat of flesh.
Her legs won’t fit together.
Her love handles droop unlovingly.
Her chin and arms have hammocks. She can’t
get her chair close enough to the table.
Her bacon cheeseburger drips grease
into her mountainous lap.
She could be me. My father
with his Russian starvation—Ess, ess.
Every bit on your plate
you must eat. Peaches,
sour cream, lick the bowl, lick. Ess, ess.
3:00 a.m. I wake. Pulled by a tide of night.
I touch the walls to guide me. I step,
barefoot, on the cold face of the scale.
Through my half-closed eyes, the lit numbers
shine up to me like a verdict.
I hear my dead mother say,
“You’re putting on the pounds, tsk, tsk.”
Mother, you used to drink black coffee
for breakfast, for lunch. Your dinner—canned
green beans and Mrs. Paul’s fillet of flounder
steamed. You whittled yourself down to a size
four, but still you couldn’t forgive the small roll
of flesh at the waistband of your girdle
from bearing four children,
the flesh you couldn’t lose without losing yourself.
Are you giddy to be weightless at last
or do you wish you had the gravity, the gravitas,
to put your soles on the scale, and weigh in?
In the morning, I will jog on the track,
running from the coat of fat my father
holds out for me, waiting for me
to stop, put my arms in, and button up.
Her coat was dark with caramel spots around her eyes,
muzzle, and paws. How surprised
I was when I ran my hand over her fur,
that both the dark and light of it was the same soft bristliness.
Her pointy ears twitched when she panted.
Her breath smelled like Alpo,
but I let her lick my lips with her taste bud bumpy tongue.
For a pup, her barks were husky.
I sucked a dog biscuit just to know how her treats tasted.
When I walked her, she stayed as close to my heels
as a shadow. I never had to grip her leash.
She hid behind me, trembling, when she saw other dogs
and was spooked by sidewalk sparrows.
The day I stumbled backward off the front step
and stamped on her right front caramel paw,
my heart yammered in my head. Oh, her yowls!
I remember my mother in her flannel work shirt,
her molded orthopedic shoes and the Ace bandage
on her bad ankle, and the tears
running down her rouged cheeks.
“I can’t work at your father’s grocery, take care
of four kids, a house, and a crippled hund that stinks
and sheds. I’m taking it to a nice farm.”
I remember the spit of gravel in the driveway
as my mother jerked our Red Rambler out, Queenie’s
paws scrabbling on the back window,
even the stepped-on one.
The first night I have to sleep without Queenie
snuffling beside me, I see her limping
through tall weeds, hiding from mice
beneath a cuticle of moon.