Despite the warning labels that read:
do not use on skin, my middle school friends
wrote Gelly Roller reminders on their hands:
Math problem set due Tuesday. Call Anna.
Kelly used her skin like paper reams,
notes gliding up her arms, under her uniform
sleeves. I told her, Don’t you know that’s toxic?
She shrugged, drawing a heart on the gap
between ring and pinkie fingers.
Now, years later I go through the house,
setting apart body wash, water bottles, dish
soaps with ingredient names I can’t pronounce,
all after a man tells me: We’re marinating
in toxins. I don’t wear make-up or use chemical
cleaners; I like to think I’m clean. But I return
to the years of my mother’s Avon Skin so Soft baths,
the bottles that accumulate in my own pantry,
the things we inherit from our mothers.
Two months before the wedding
I ask Mom if that’ll be enough salmon soup,
she says, It will be. But unless Mom can also
multiply the fish from a poor boy’s lunch,
I’m skeptical that all of us will leave full.
But even I know not to complain for what
I’m given. The shelves get lighter as we prepare
for the renovation. The fridge is being moved
into the living room; there are already flies
congregating over our plates. My mother has learned
how to take the house apart and rearrange it
under stovetops, into closets and bookshelves, behind
hoosiers—I don’t think I’ll sleep until it’s all
unpacked and able to breathe, my body
stretched out and removed from its hiding place.
In seventh grade, during science class,
we were talking about the planets
and James Cochran asked me:
Do you know we all inadvertently consume
about seven pounds of insects in our lifetime?
He became an accountant.
Since I consumed so many insects, I wondered
what other things I must unintentionally intake as well:
years, people’s good intentions, lyrics from looped play-
lists in the grocery store, compliments, unlisted calories.
How much of our lives are lost to sleep!
Think of all the poems that could be written!
What does this mean for the things that remain
to be consumed, sitting like my mother’s pantry
items, expiring with hardened potential.
My mother came home
with bowling shoes one day,
said they were on sale, and maybe
we should pick up the hobby,
but I know that bowling will end
the same way ice skating did,
as well as gardening and treadmills,
diets and piano lessons…
———————— the shoes
are still ivory today, rigid and clean.
Beside them, my mother’s pair, never
worn. In the back of my closet,
they are hidden by the dresses
that I never wear, the ice skates
that are too small now, the chess
trophies for honorable mentions
but never first place—I don’t let
myself go back there, except now:
we’re having a yard sale tomorrow,
and I have to decide what
I will bring into my marriage,
what I will leave behind. I evaluate
both pairs in my hands: how many things
must I leave behind? In the end, I keep
one pair of bowling shoes
in the closet, just in case.
Meg Eden’s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Eleven Eleven, and Rock & Sling. Her work received second place in the 2014 Ian MacMillan Fiction contest. Her collections include “Your Son” (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), “Rotary Phones and Facebook” (Dancing Girl Press) and “The Girl Who Came Back” (Red Bird Chapbooks). She teaches at the University of Maryland. Check out her work at: https://www.facebook.com/megedenwritespoems