This is when you learned to fear your food:
the summer squash sagged soft, the winter beans.
First came the night, the kitchen table where
you couldn't bear to eat and so were forced
to sleep, small head against congealing plate
'til dawn. Then came the day - with mother on
her knees as if in prayer, her index finger down
her throat - and yours - and you just stood there dumbly,
numbly, holding back her hair. Where's Grandma J.?
Where's dad? Where's God and what the hell? Can't
anybody hear the wretched retching coughs,
the gags that herald time before school time?
She's sick, she's purifying both of you.
You'll feel better afterwards - she promises.
You kissed the sour mouth goodbye, and hoped
the forewarned threat of death did not occur
before noon, before lunch, before you made
it home again - before you'd time to save her.