“May I please have a piece

of candy, grandma, please,

may I?” Water runs in the kitchen.

She doesn’t hear. Little boy’s hand

reaches into green glass bowl,

on the coffee table, waist high.

His fingers grab the golden candy, hold it up

like a trophy, the cellophane crackling. “Young man!


Her lips line up, a race he cannot win.

“Did you ask? Did you say may I?”

His bottom lip quivers, he looks down

at the pink carpet, down

at his Buster Brown shoes, one untied,

at the candy, golden juice

on his sweaty palm. He feels

his lips close around it, smiles

under the shag

of his bowl cut.


“Look at me

when I talk to you.” Her nails

jerk his jaw up. His hair flops back,

the candy too

to the back of his throat

where it sticks. His eyes reflect

the sun above the empty courtyard

outside. She reaches

for his ankles, one in each hand,

pulls him up. His hair brushes

the carpet, a drop of drool runs

over his forehead, lands.


“Spit it out! Spit

it out! Do you hear me?

Do what I say!” Up, down,

up, down. The candy

flies from his mouth, sticks

to the carpet. Up. She lets go.

He lands, forehead, nose, then cheek,

coughs, and cries dark spots onto the rug.

“You just lie there and think

about what you’ve done.” Grandma

knits her hands together, thumbs rub fast

over her fingers. Ten red crescents

bloom on little boy’s ankles.



Shawna Ervin

Shawna Ervin is an MFA candidate at Rainier Writers Workshop through Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state. She is studying nonfiction and poetry and is a recipient of the Carol Houck and Linda Bierds scholarship. Shawna is a Pushcart nominee and attended the Mineral School residency thanks to a fellowship from the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Recent publications include poetry in Tampa Review, Euphony Journal, Evening Street Review, Hiram Poetry Review, The Phoenix, and Raw Art Review; and prose in COG, Apalachee Review, Front Porch, The Delmarva Review, Summerset Review, Superstition Review, and Willow Review. Her chapbook Mother Lines was published in January 2020 by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Denver with her family.

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