by Genevieve N. Williams
I work small bones from the back of my mouth 
to my front teeth, pluck and drop them 
in a pile on a plastic plate. How easy it could be to go 
like this: cross-legged on the kitchen stool, 
mackerel flash-fried only a moment ago, 
an un-tongued bone fixed and final in my throat. 
After shattering a bottle of Shalimar to slit her wrists, 
my mother paused—its alcohol would sterilize 
the wound. I must not want to die after all, she laughed. 
I can’t stop laughing as the barrel of a gun jabs my right side. 
You think this is a fucking joke? Open the drawer. 
No, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know it’s not a joke, I say 
and back away, fold forward over my knees. 
The robber leaves, staggers crab-like out the door 
with only tens and ones—the event is done.
I’ll be all right, my mother decided, swept the glass 
and bagged it twice to protect the palms of garbage men. 
How her dresser smelled of death for days—
the perfumed haze made her open the shades, 
lift every window to bright noise.
This poem previously appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Prairie Schooner.