The Woman Who Ate Her Mother
She missed her so much after she died
that she decided to eat her mother.
But not the way her own daughter ate her,
needing to nurse every few hours,
as if she were a diner
open for business night and day.
Given the cancer, there wasn’t
a lot of her mother left to eat.
No one had to encourage her
to clean her plate.
With every swallow, she felt
closer to her mother;
adding on an extra pound or two
a year, until she’d eaten the equivalent
of an upholstered armchair.
Now she’s fatter than her mother
ever was, before her mother got sick.
It’s hard to tell where
her mother begins
and she ends.
Now she’ll never be alone,
even if all that’s left
is a measly wishbone.
People said that they were “slow”—
the polite euphemism of the time—
as if each one had gotten half a brain.
Still, those girls were smart enough
to last twelve miserable years in school
where the boys made fun of them,
calling them “Retards” to their faces.
Right hand and left hand, each girl
precisely mirrored her sister’s waddle.
Unlike Siamese twins, these
could go into a room and slam
a door on one another to be alone,
although they preferred each other’s
company—each one the other’s best
and only friend, singing in the alto chorus,
homely, dumpy, lowing like cows.
Tucked into bed, I longed
for a twin—even a defective one:
we’d impersonate each other on dates,
share each other’s clothes,
but not—God forbid—wear those ugly
corduroy jumpers the twins’ mother made.
How could she let them go to school,
with their buttons buttoned wrong?
At the senior prom, they danced
the monkey and the twist.
During the slow dances,
when they swayed cheek to cheek,
their red velvet gowns
looked like homemade valentines,
two halves of a folded heart.
Jane Shore’s six books of poems have garnered many prizes—including the Juniper Prize (1977), the Lamont Prize (1986) and the 2010 Poets Prize. She’s been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, and a Hodder Fellow at Princeton. That Said, New and Selected Poems, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2012. A Professor at the George Washington University, she lives in Washington, DC and in Vermont. To read more by this author: Five Poems, Vol. 2:2, Spring 2001.