Kelsey Ann Kerr

High School Lunch

My father made me a sandwich for lunch every day,

carefully put the turkey, cheddar, lettuce and mayo

on the sourdough, then zipped it up in a Ziploc.

 

And every day during orchestra, I slipped the sandwich

into the whooshing plastic of a black trashcan, or palmed

it off to a friend. Those feinted days, when I almost fainted

 

in the hallways, eating less than three hundred calories.

Once, my father made a spaghetti dinner—the last
he’d cook for us as a family—and I refused to eat

 

anything but Special K. His dish crashed into the sink

and my mother ran after him (then, she still could).

I held the shards in my hands; the pasta sauce

 

coated them like coagulated blood. That was

the first time in my life that I felt regret,

true regret, the kind that’s parasitic

 

and coils up in you like a tape worm,

eating through your intestines,

inside out. The kind that swims

 

around in your stomach when you wake

covered in the lilacs and butterflies

of your childhood bed, to come downstairs

 

and find your mother, alone, crying.

The kind that feels like the frozen lace

of love covering your heart

 

when your aunts are waiting for you at the airport

in Seattle, instead of your mother’s friend,

and they sit you down in those grey vinyl chairs

 

by baggage claim. You don’t want to look
at them. You want to watch the carousel

until it’s one with painted horses that never

 

stops spinning. You hop on, grab

a magenta mane, and hold as tight

as your tiny hands will let you.

 

 

 

Visiting my mother’s memory on a stormy Friday night

I stare at the reflection

in the candle, aimlessly,

until it hits me—it looks

like my mother’s eye,

dark as the sea in a storm,

grey and sad but inquisitive.

Then I realize, it’s actually

the matting of our portrait

that I took in college,

in the reflection, of us

in matching outfits,

mounted on my wall.

The cancer had gotten worse

then; she’d started fearing

death for the first time.

When I asked her

that winter where

she wanted her ashes

spread, she said

she didn’t know,

maybe the Grand Canyon,

where she and my dad

were wed, maybe

Bandelier, where

she spent much

of her childhood,

just outside Los Alamos,

then looked me

in the eyes

and just cried.

I held her until

she fell asleep;

her short

blonde hairs

stuck to the pillow

with static.

The next morning,

when I kissed her goodbye

and flew away,

I refused

to know

it would be

the last time

I’d see her smile.

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr

 

Kelsey Ann Kerr has a great interest in loss: holes both metaphorical and physical of the heart, holes in life left by the loss of parents, cauterized by love. She teaches writing composition at the University of Maryland and American University, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Maryland. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in “Stirring,” “New Delta Review” and “The Sewanee Review,” among others.

Instant Grammar Checker - Correct all grammar errors and enhance your writing.

Leave a Reply