SELF-PORTRAIT AS A MOUTH
My mother speaks to me in scissors.
She runs each blade down the lobe of my ear.
Father sits in the corner staring
as if expecting me to cry but hoping
he raised a man and not a boy. The
stains on my shirt from dinner
dye the fabric a new color. Instead
of white I am dressed in what’s left.
The other kids laugh directly in my face,
their grins wrap around my neck
like a car around a telephone pole.
I want to go. I want to go. I want to
go but the only place I can is inside. So I
hook my fingers into the sides of my mouth
and swallow myself.
We walk to the edge of the continent / and there in the sand I turn to her and say, / look,
this is where I buried myself / / It’s the only place on earth / where the water doesn’t
reflect / / I begged it not to long enough that it finally gave in / / Behind us are the trees
that watched me / stab my shovel into the ground / / Their limbs turn with the wind
and I don’t blame them / / Before she can stop me I drop to my knees / and begin grabbing
at handfuls of sand / and shoving them into my mouth / / What are you doing, she yells
/ / I swallow / / What are you doing / / I swallow / / What are you doing / / I swallow / /
She tears at my arms like a mother / who caught her child with one of the bottles / from
her personal cabinet / / Stop that, she cries / / I cough a cloud / Another bolus travels down /
The sand begins abrading my throat / / In severe cases of reflux the esophagus will un-
dergo metaplasia in order to develop tissue / similar to that of the cardia / I wonder if my stomach bleeds enough it will become an ocean / / The wind stops and the tree limbs
shift back into place / I don’t blame them