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Throat, Knife, Words 

Jill Breckenridge 

I couldn't cry the day my mother died. 
She was shy, never good with words. 

She thought that vodka made her droll. 
She stored her bottles with the toilet paper. 

She stuffed and zipped them into winter boots. 
She hid them under Idaho potatoes. 

My father drank martinis from a pitcher. 
He floated olives in them, little ice. 

My mother ran her car into the streetlight. 
My father ran his fist into her face. 

At six, I knew that secrets saved your life. 
I hid the butcher knife beneath the sheets. 

My heart gave back our nightmare in the light: 
He strangled her against my cowboy spread. 

His hands around her neck, her face turned blue. 
I meant to run the knife between his ribs. 

He heard me yell, I'm going to kill you, Daddy! 
My father knocked the knife out of my hand. 

Slumping to the floor, he sobbed till dawn. 
He never hit her in the face again. 

The day she died, she put her make-up on. 
I wanted us to say what was unsaid. 

Cancer of the throat, she couldn't speak. 
We never found the words to make it right. 

(Jill wants you to know that this poem is written in iambic pentameter for
those of you who are poetry aficionados! And it is autobiographical. This
poem will be included in her new book of poems, The Gravity of Flesh.)

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