The Heavy Woman Flying by Her Elbows
Scrubbing Pans in the Back
stubborn spots bucking her washcloth at Burger King
or cleaning underbrush from toasters.
Mid 30s, she half-smiled
when I saw her at the counter and asked,
“Do you work up front now?”
“No, I don’t do well with people.”
I recalled a morning two years before
when she and her four adult brothers,
each looking like he stewed in puberty,
took punishing steps single-file
behind their mother.
At their long-faced table, without words,
they looked down, peered too closely
at their egg sandwiches, ho-hum hashbrowns.
No passion except for shaking pepper.
One brother said something I couldn’t hear.
The mother, in her tirade of silence
parked her purse by smacking it on the floor
and, in the clutch of her coffee cup,
lifted her head and said,
“No talking over there!”
“I’m sorry Mother.” She turned
to another son two chairs down and,
shifting her weight, said, “Don’t think
for a moment I’m done with you.”
Their clothes in the throes of the last depression,
their own elbows sharp as fins
on the table, I guess that not a one
inside their mouth ever thrilled to a kiss—
that growing up, their lawns
were hard places, Over and over
she put the brakes on breakfast.
Crowded rules made me guess
as they walked out—some of their bellies
with breakfast bumps—that woodshed apologies
kept them from growing up.
The poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan from 2007-2010, Rodney Torreson’s third full-length collection of poetry, THE JUKEBOX WAS THE JURY OF THEIR LOVE, was issued by Finishing Line Press in 2019. In addition, Torreson has new poems that recently appeared or are forthcoming in AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POETRY, MAIN STREET RAG, NORTH DAKOTA QUARTERLY, PATERSON LITERARY REVIEW, and THIRD COAST.