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Aftertaste, 1934

                                    Stacey Lynn Brown

In the dark mahogany den, on top
of the crisp linen tablecloth,
the sterling silver bowl sits, its
glistening fruit within. I see him there

in his sailor suit, dirty at the knees,
his eyes casting about the room
as he creeps up to the table
and takes the piece that shines

most bright, the one he knows
he must not eat, dyspepsia,
infirmity, belladonna
for the gastric tract,

slipping beneath the skirted
credenza where he knows
they will not look. Hours
pass. His mother, father, sister,

Janie call up and down the dusking
streets, call the neighbors, call
for the police and when he finally
emerges, lips licked clean and eyes

downcast, he knows he’ll be whipped,
knows his sister will be, too, for letting him
slip through her ten year-old grasp,
knows his father will not speak for days

but what he never could have known
to expect was the exquisite aftertaste
of his mother’s grief when she enveloped
him in relief then pushed him roughly

away, how he’ll never be able to eat
that fruit again, how it will hang
from its vine, from its stem, in the glass
cut bowls, in quarters, uneaten,

his every glance at it ever after
a bile, a withering.

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