Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

Woman and Child Blowing Bubbles

The pig’s bladder she takes to her lips and fills like a lung,
slips in shiny pebbles, a plaything
for her daughter to rattle over tiles. They say she spoils her,
and her daughter’s sleeves drip wet lace, it’s true,
as they dip dinner utensils through dishwater to spray bubbles
through the kitchen gloom. The dog her daughter manhandles
with love rough as any boy, though when she holds this child,
they both go limp with need. How she loves to be coddled,
to be told she is perfect, precious, all the things you are not to tell
your children for fear they will think they are owed
all pleasures: the split carcasses strewn across her butcher’s block,
the mincemeat pies broken open on her table, the sweets stacked
and canned in the cupboard. But she knows no girl
turned to whoring for the love of meat, only the girls at the tavern
too starved to know their own need, teeth broken on brutality.
So she coddles her daughter, who begs her
each morning to play, play rather than fill the washtub,
and her girl is strong willed, that is true, and can throw a storm
of a fit, which rattles the neighbors, but she is sharper
than the tomato knife, keener than the serrated grapefruit spoons
they use some nights when they sit out back, scooping the sweet-tart
slices to their mouths. Clinging to her mother’s broadcloth, she knows
nothing of the marriage bed, but, perhaps, her mother thinks,
with a mind like that and the will besides, she’ll find a way
to fill the ballooning emptiness, rattling like knuckle bones at every woman’s ribs.  end