i can’t promise you, mom

that i won’t

spill the beans

or is it black-eyed peas–they’re supposed

to be lucky anyways, foreseeing

a fortunate year–i can’t predict

whether my tongue will loosen on watery beers

roiling a stomach stuffed

with peanuts

and let slip something you’d prefer to keep


i won’t tell them

what they don’t already suspect, twenty

odd years with no boyfriend

in sight on this flat horizon

they’ve seen the oak trees, how they grow

crooked without another

trunk to lean on–this was seen

in the flutter of birds wings, cards or whatever

you say you believe in now

they don’t say

what they believe

grace at dinner is half-forgotten and

truce a word for Scrabble boards

i can’t read the future, mom, though you taught me well

what the words on the next page tell

i will try not to tell them


you taught me not to tell lies, but how

can i face them now

words caught in my teeth like the shells

from peanuts and i want

them to be better, i want them to deserve you

your love

because you are better, stronger than

they have ever appreciated

your own blood

and mine

i can’t promise you that i won’t speak

you taught me that too

my voice deserves its place in the wind and i’m

sorry for interrupting you

but there are some things I won’t say

and others i won’t hold back

when provoked, stomach tumbling

to my bare toes

i promise you

mom, I will respect you

as long as you return the favor

instead of cutting my breath