Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Retching

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I watch my child,
who has never thrown up,
bow his face obediently

into the gleaming
open mouth of a toilet bowl.
Eyes closed, hands clenching

the cotton across his thighs.
He is trained not to touch
the surface of this porcelain statue.

His body convulses
as if flogged, and when he turns
his face up to mine,

in between tremors,
it is only to ask
what he has done wrong.

In my mind I see an even smaller boy,
alone in an alley in Chennai.
He bends over steam,

clenching a stick in one hand,
his own dhoti in the other,
and retches into a pile

of feces and rotting rice,
adds his own bile to the waste
that defines the boundaries of his life,

a quiet mortal ritual,
like riding the bus
to school each morning.


Kirsten Jones Neff is a writer and gardening teacher who lives with her husband and three children in a small rural corner of Novato, California. Her first chapbook, When the House is Quiet, won the 2009 Starting Gate Prize and a 2010 Pushcart nomination from Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Spillway, Spoon River Poetry Review, When The Muse Calls: Poems for The Creative Life, 34th Parallel, The Believer, The Marin Poetry Center Anthology, and elsewhere. Her website has a link to her organic gardening blog, Good Dirt.


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