Age: 15, Grade: 10
School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educator: Derek Kulnis
Thoughts on Forgiveness
Thursdays I visit my hollow mother in her hollow house,
the blue shingles, paint peeling purposefully, gathering in piles on the porch.
I never knock, the keyhole melts when it reads my fingerprint,
the same as her own. I enter without diction, I begin.
How to make a cup of coffee:
(for when your mother’s bones are riddled with parasites and can not support her rotten flesh anymore, for when tea is too gentle and water too pure,
for when you raised yourself)
Boil water in the rusty kettle under the stove,
grind waxy beans into the consistency of sand, or of granular powders
and smokes spread out on the nightstand like a buffet.
Be gentle with the filter, cater to its creases.
Pour. Wait. Pour again,
Slam in front of an outline of yourself,
same eyes and same fragile hands that put down infants and picked up
phones with unfamiliar voices dangling on the other end.
I place the cup on slats of oak without a covering,
she asks me to stay. In her hesitant syllables I hear
my brother and I on the rug, her behind the door, my own voice
asking what’s wrong. I stock the fridge, empty out the leaking eggshells and
fold laundry that is all hers now. Pick up crumbs and onion skins
that I tear apart in my right hand and crumple in my left. Before I
leave I stamp another muddy handprint above her couch:
she’ll see it if I’m lucky, miss it if she’s careful.
I wear my mother’s shirt to school the
next day, a Friday. The end of times. A girl asks
me where I got it: I tell her I made it myself, count the freckles
On her smiling face. She doesn’t believe me.
I say: I am telling the truth. You can call my mother and ask her,
she will tell you. She will show you where I stitched the thread to cloth,
how I embroidered a family into the space where she couldn’t.