The Telling

Matchstick thin a girl
with a jug too burning hot to hold

stumbles
and the field of berries holds its blue breath
as she and the jug
fall soundless
on the shoulderwide path of matted-down
footsteps.

Cracked, cracked to pieces
the jug
flashes its boiled water
over her mother,
who had stifled the wail of birthing
muffled the first squawks
first chirps of rose-pink life,
now this

now this

her mother scalded to death.

A girl

and a wet wrinkled baby.
No milk
no movement, nothing.

That was the telling,
my grandmother fleeing.
A sepia memory
mildewed, perhaps, or not

the telling, as if a coin lifted from a box at the back
of the bottommost drawer in the darkest
most airless corner of the shadedrawn room

her telling

told to no one but me
and that time only
as she pulled two blueberry muffins
from the bakery bag
and set them and a knife on the plate.

A memory, over and not

like the song about the song
that never ends.

A girl, not here, not there,
stopped in what becomes forever
dead center

and fuels the nights of her sleep.

Had I known, I could have told her

no one dies from a jug
of boiled water.

 

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