Swallowing Sounds Like Boiling Water


I can feel a word

crawling up my esophagus

like tequila

in a red dress

or the kitchen table

that I swallowed when

my grandmother died.


I should have slipped into

the word when I married,

or when I learned to

measure coffee,

or when I first shrank

from small hands, small toes.


One day, it will become

more than a word.

It will be a song

a eulogy

a dissertation.

It will be or has been

my mother’s hands

made of flour

boiled in chicken bones,

and her smile

heavy with the weight

of the kitchen table

in her stomach.


One day,

I will be old enough

or brave enough

to speak the word,

or write it in a journal

that may be read

by my daughters.

I may finally cloak myself

in the word and allow it

to rush from my esophagus

where it is now stuck.


But for now, I let the word


linger like a tickle

in my throat

or a flame

under the teakettle

of my childhood.






On the commute home

the clouds form a table

atop four grain silos,

each grand, different.

It reminds me of you.

The top of the table is

covered with papers:

marriage certificates,



Beneath the table

grows the pile of rejections:

unworn house slippers,

discarded candy wrappers,

an album of pictures that

doesn’t belong to us.

A box of ashes teeters

on the edge of the table.

If it falls, will our life

have happened at all?


I pass beyond sight of the table, and

I remember that it is only clouds.

I forget them as I continue home.




Elizabeth Jenike is currently a master’s student of creative writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she serves as the Fiction Editor for Oxford Magazine, the graduate literary publication. She received her undergraduate degree in creative writing from Northern Kentucky University in 2012. Her poetry appeared in the 2010-2011 edition of NKU Expressed, and her short story “The End” was published in the 2009-2010 edition of the same. Most recently, her flash fiction piece “How to Dye Window Treatments” was published by the undergraduate literary project ObsessionMag.

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