Food is love, I say;
Candy polish cherried on my fingers,
Plump apples smiling sweetly on the counter.
Breezes run warm palms over our skin
And trees rustle through the open door,
And the room is basted in rich afternoon sun.
Your eyes graze over my extra chin, wide arms,
The fabric stretched too tight around my middle.
A furtive hand pinches at your ribs.
I’m sure it is, you say.
Bony hands curl around cooling mug;
Candy apples drip untasted on the counter.
Food is love, I say again.
Garlic sizzles in the saucepan,
So fresh my eyes watered when I chopped it.
The light blinks unsteadily overhead
But the kitchen is warm,
And the oil is silenced by the sudden rush of broth.
You don’t look at me this time.
The loosening sweatshirt matches your tightening gaze;
The untouched bowl, your hollow stomach.
Your eyes are sunken; drawn inward
To where you thrash, drowning,
In a sea of widdendream.
Sure it is, you say, quieter.
Food is love, I say one more time.
The rain is pounding on the roof
Like chestnuts into a mason jar
And the power’s already gone out once—
But the tree’s gleaming in its garlands and lights
And time is growing short.
You wince like it’s a mouthful of needles.
It’s hardly even you at the table:
Hair rough as moss, skin so taut
It’s rubbed to a polish against your bones.
Your spine hunches and curls like water-fossils:
Long dead, still masquerading as life.
Fuck you, you whisper to the table.
We could have stopped you.
There’s a picture of you, the real you,
And it’s surrounded by daffodils.
Older women murmur and choke
Behind rope-veined hands;
Men stand as golems,
Eyes fixed on their shoes.
Our aunt shuffles around the lobby
With a smile brittle as a waning moon.
She’s carrying a platter of teacakes.
Food is love, she says.
She offers me the tray.
I run my eye over the powdery sweetness,
The fractured brightness of her eyes.
I want to spit.
If food was love, you should have swallowed me whole;
I would have poured myself,
Arms and hips and too-wide middle
Down your throat like a raw egg.
I would have pulled every kind word from the air for you,
Plucked them like ripe cherries into a bowl of sugar,
Shown you the undying sweetness of your ways.
Food is love, and love is food,
And you starved in more ways than one.
I drop my eyes from the platter,
Her pleading gaze.
I should have taught you how to feed yourself.
The teacakes go untasted.
I sit down and pull my jacket closer.
Sure it is, I say.