The summer before college
my mother invited me to her house for tea,
but I know she only drinks whiskey.
My tires hit the gravel,
sliding down the narrow driveway,
the whirlpool in my stomach spinning,
something more than tea is waiting.
I turn my key in the doorknob,
surprised it still fits.
I call her name;
I haven’t said “mom” since the day I left.
Silence echoes back,
but I know where she’ll be.
I step onto the back porch
and there a cigarette floats
circling fumes escaping its head.
At first, I think,
nothing has changed
but my eyes travel down,
her growing belly,
stretching out from her blouse,
contrasting the rest of her slim frame.
“She’s the size of an avocado.”
I watch a ring of smoke.
“I’m due in February.”
I remain frozen, entranced.
“She’ll be named after your grandmother.”
Her eyes beg for some response.
All I can see is the cigarette.
Another child born with lungs of ash
She draws another breath.