October from the Pacific

by Julia O'Sullivan

Outside there is a hollow graveyard,
as empty as a stomach inverted
with hunger. Disquieted in its craving.

My mother makes stew thick with chard.
I can hear the kitchen.
I can smell the kitchen.
It does not matter from where.

Later, at the table, I become the whale,
capturing krill with broom baleen, brittle
and meticulous. Catching seeds like small acrobats
falling through the salty water.

The sidewalk is wet with Gingko leaves,
though it has not rained since before I can remember.

On the way to school,
my mother peels two from the pavement
and twirls them between her fingers, skin slackened
at the knuckles: “Look how they dance,” she says.
Pretty skirts. Skinny ladies.

We pick out pumpkins and carry them by their stems.
My mother once held me this way–
by my stem. I fell off
just like they warned her I would.

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