Volume 24, Number 3

I just did what I always do: eat

I don’t know if it bothers me more
that it took death for me to see her again
or that her mother died from what
my mother survived. Tonight it was KFC,

mashed potatoes like a soothing balm.
But I’ve already written that poem: me
and food, me and food, me
and food and a life of fuck-ups.

Though I never say fuck-ups because I can’t
admit I’m not proud of this fat body. I didn’t
want to go to the funeral home because none
of my clothes fit, because my black pants

are elastic-waisted. I only feel happy wasted on cake.
She was still skinny like high school, in a black blazer.
I’m not crying for her mother in a blue
sweater in a box in December. I’m crying for the poem

I never wrote: the headaches I only heard about
over the phone, the surgery clip & run, the seizures,
the medicine. How can a man who just lost his wife
remember his daughter’s friend from high school?

An hour ago they said the last goodbyes
for the night, and it was probably home with aunts
and uncles, sandwiches from a deli tray, a moment
at the spot where she fell in the kitchen or laundry room.

It’s what I imagine—the falling.
I’ll find out later that she didn’t fall, but collapsed
in the passenger seat of my friend’s car. An aneurysm burst.
My mother’s leaked for days. Repaired now, she seizes

every couple months, shakes and spits like she’s trying
to purge the memory. If I were a different person,
I’d induce vomiting afterwards; instead I hold it
inside and grow bigger and bigger.

—Jennifer Jackson Berry