Sharon Olds

The Meal

Mama, I never stop seeing you there 
at the breakfast table when I'd come home from school— 
sitting with your excellent skeletal posture 
facing that plate with the one scoop of cottage cheese on it, 
forcing yourself to eat, though you did not want to live, 
feeding yourself, small spoonful by 
small spoonful, so you would not die and 
leave us without a mother as you were
left without a mother. You'd sit 
in front of that mound rounded as a breast and 
giving off a cold moony light, 
light of the life you did not want, you would 
hold yourself there and stare down at it, 
an orphan forty years old staring at the breast, 
a freshly divorced woman down to 82 pounds 
staring at the cock runny with milk gone sour, 
a daughter who had always said 
the best thing her mother ever did for her 
was to die. I came home every day to 
find you there, dry-eyed, unbent, that 
hot control in the breakfast nook, your 
delicate savage bones over the cheese 
curdled like the breast of the mother twenty years in 
the porous earth,
                            and yet what I remember is your 
spoon moving like the cock moving in the
body of the girl waking to the power of her pleasure, 
your spoon rising in courage, bite after bite, you 
tilted rigid over that plate until you 
polished it for my life.

spoken = Linsay Rousseau