Her first word was material.

The adults wondered why she skipped

all the warm-up words like mama and daddy.


So odd, they commented.

Why did that word emerge first

from the buttery spread of childhood?


Her home smelled like codfish balls and beer.

The Mona Lisa, torn from a magazine,

hung on a wall.


Pickpockets and drunks stopped by

while her uncle looked for coins on the sidewalk.

Her other uncle worked nights as a jailer.


He locked up family members as a joke.

Her grandmother had no teeth.

Her aunt thought Jell-O was alive.


When the girl grew up, she seldom uttered the word material.

She did not build things or sew things.

She lived simply and was not materialistic.


Maybe as a child she knew that her family would provide

colorful material for her stories.

Maybe her first word was a warning to them to behave.


by Suzanne O’Connell


Suzanne O’Connell lives in Los Angeles where she is a poet and a clinical social worker. Her work can be found in Forge, Atlanta Review, Blue Lake Review, Crack The Spine, The Manhattanville Review, G.W. Review, Reed Magazine, The Griffin, Sanskrit, Permafrost, Foliate Oak, Talking River, Organs of Vision and Speech Literary Magazine, Willow Review, The Tower Journal, Thin Air Magazine, Mas Tequila Review, The Evansville Review, The Round, Serving House Journal, Poetry Super Highway, poeticdiversity, Fre&D, The Tower Journal, Silver Birch Press, The Louisville Review, Lummox Press, The Four Seasons Anthology, and Licking River Review. She was a recipient of Willow Review’s annual award for 2014 for her poem “Purple Summers.” She is a member of Jack Grapes’ L.A. Poets and Writers Collective.


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