A Mother Speaks

by Joshua Gage

Here's the truth of it. There was no witch,
no house of gingerbread, no trail of crumbs.
No, there was only us, the woods, and the gnaw
of cold. Your father was the first to slip
into the shadows stretching from the trees.
The dark would echo with your screams and we
hungered. Some bones hold only so much meat
but at least we didn't starve. The sun returned
and soon the days were warm, and we forgot
the night until it crept into our corners
and the wind wound round the house. We huddled close
to the oven's warmth, but even fires go out.
There was no wood, no coal, no food, until
your fingers grew as thin as chicken bones.
I watched you shiver in your cribs, carried
back to when I held you in my belly
swollen as the moon. I can ignore
the breath in sleep that isn't there, scrub away
the blood. But now I feel you, children,
pressing at my ribs like prisoners
fingering the bars of their cage.

Joshua Gage is the author of the 40 chorus poem "Deep Cleveland Lenten Blues," available as a chapbook from Deep Cleveland Press. His full length collection of haiku, breaths, is available from vanZeno press. He is a graduate of the Naropa University Low Residency MFA program in Creative Writing. He stomps around Cleveland in a purple bathrobe where he hosts the monthly Deep Cleveland Poetry hour, enjoys the beer at Brew Kettle, and collects Pendleton shirts. He very much believes in ghosts.

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