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Fall 2021 Featured Poetry

Breakfast

by Annabelle Wang

My mother tells me
I have to eat breakfast
or else the stomach acid
will start to eat at me.
Three generations of women
avoiding breakfast—
I remember my grandmother
who wouldn’t eat from the time
she woke each sunrise
til late noon, up
until the cancer spread through her stomach.
She went to the hospital, but she’s dead now.
My mother doesn’t talk about her much,
only mentioning her vaguely as a threat
of what happens to daughters
who have to survive their mother at 18.
A lesson learned of girls
who don’t eat breakfast.

But I can’t trust her.
I never see her eat breakfast.
She used to—
a banh mi after school,
cheesy pasta before skating lessons.
Back when we ate together, almost happily,
if not for the shared shame in our eyes
after reaching for seconds.

It is difficult not to think about
my mother on her deathbed. Swept up
in the white sheets with her sunshine
yellow skin. I sit outside her hospital room
and my head is in my hands. I wonder
how I will react when she dies, as I press
a hand into the emptiness of my rib cage,
searching for a spine. There’s only gas there,
from sucking in my stomach all the time.

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