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In the back of the closet in my room,

My room from baby till seven years old,

Was a painting of a woman.

Dark hair and dark colors. Sometimes

I shoved the clothes aside to see her.

It was a painting of my grandmother, I decided,

Who was dead.


My grandfather came to our apartment

On Sundays with bagels and lox,

And a new toy for me, and one for my baby brother.

He remembered the toys we loved,

Brought new ones that were similar. 

The red plastic ball

with strange splashes of color.

I was allowed to throw it in the house.

My grandfather could only throw with one hand,

not the other.

I didn’t bother asking my mother why.

It wasn’t interesting.

My grandfather died before we moved to New Jersey.

But my grandmother had always been dead.


I got my period when I was almost thirteen,

In the exact middle.

Half my friends had it, half not.

I called my mother at work.

She was thrilled, for the ten minutes between patients.

I guess she told my father

And he was excited too.

Next month no words, no questions.

She didn’t show me 

how to use a tampon.


Thirteen. The summer I grew hips.

Endless hours in the car

Driving through Maine, all of August.

We were bored silly.

My father decided to moo at every cow;

Cow language became his specialty.

My brother created a new version of the family

With extremely strange names.

We were the Robinsons. 

I was Specteria Abra Robinson,

nicknamed Specky Abe.

My brother was Barnold Howdy.

He talked about this family’s days

Which could have been our days.

I constantly ate to feed my hips.

Look Specky Abe is eating again, the stupid daily joke.


Before the trip or after,

My mother told me 

That my grandmother was not only dead,

She had killed herself.

Committed suicide was how she said it.

I knew “suicide”.  I didn’t know  

You had to commit to it.


I committed to my hips,

to my monthly blood.

I conceded their existence as part of myself.

My grandmother, painted to the back of my closet,

Committed to being there.

Flattened onto canvas,

Mute and still.

Growing dust while I grew hips.

Her unused law degree,

the doctor’s wife, 

battles with my mother over uneaten tomatoes,

all grew too complicated,

too intricate, too exhausting.

Canvas was rough enough

To hook her fingers through,

Lay her cheek against,

and be soothed.


My mother eats tomatoes now, nightly.

So does my father.

Tomatoes appear on my plate as I cross the line 

from child to adult.

Straight from the supermarket,

More pink than red.

I hate them.

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