When Shaquan sits in her mother's kitchen
The grease-coated metal of the chair
Presses the flesh of her thighs
Not so much supporting her -
Her life a burden upon it -
Rather an assault, a public
Stoning in reverse.
She stares emptily at her mother's back
Stares while her mother raises the
Stench of morning eggs
Stares while her daughter's bare feet
Strike the chair legs
Stares while her boys fuss on the floor
And her mother fusses at the stove
Like a short-order cook who knows
She's about to be shorted a tip.
Her mother pays the child support
Supporting her child - now grown -
Her child's children growing,
Feeding them, sheltering them,
Letting them squander her investments,
A daily disregard which is paid back
With her only currency:
Her words reminding Shaquan
Of all she's lost - the job at Dairy-O,
The father of these children, the money
For shoes on what should be
The little girl's first day of school.
The air was thick the night before
When her mother withdrew her legal tender
Acting instead as judge and jury
Her back now turned to the stove
To face Shaquan and her failure.
She stopped hearing the words long ago,
But they leach out of her mother
And she continues absorbing them,
Feeding on them,
Drawing an awkward strength from them.
Once her mother was asleep,
She went to the boys' room
And stopped their breath,
Silenced their cries,
Then lay between them, dozing,
Before waking in a terror,
Lifting them quietly onto the porch,
And fastening their limp former selves
Into their car seats, ironically
Securing them against automotive harm.
She did not linger, nor
Smooth their hair, nor
Touch their brows, nor speak
Their names one last time.
She just drove in the raw light
To the Edisto River boat ramp,
Opened her door, released the brake,
And walked to the trunk,
Turned her back on her children,
Assuming her mother's posture,
And leaned just firmly enough
To feel the wheels begin to turn.
After, she said she wanted to be free,
But I think she wanted them to be free.
She made the only possible deposit,
Buried her talents in the field,
Rather than see them lost
In the words of her mother,
Rather than see them be killed in that way.
She has been denied all power, but this
She could choose, this outcome she controlled.