Bright kitchen table. Nags Head, North Carolina.
One of very few family vacations. Before little brother.
Before half-brothers stopped coming to stay.
White tile floor. In a high chair, dangling chubby
thighs and toddler feet like it’s the best thing.
Hi-C juice box in hand. The boys at the table.
The ocean waits for us to finish our lunch.
Dad smokes on the porch, or looks out and sighs
at the sea. Mom’s in that blue-leopard ruffled
one-piece to hide what she thought was lingering
post-me fat. Her long hair in the side French-braid
she always wore. Our happiness here still vulnerable
to light under the kitchen table, light pouring in
from the sliding glass doors to the sand dunes
and the rickety wooden fence to the Atlantic and sky.
The light, true. Mom’s happiness true, too, our young
family without boundary, or fortune. I squeeze
too hard. Pink splashes the chair and floor. Perhaps this
is the beginning, my first yes to the just do it
in my rebellious bones. See what happens.
I love this urge—the test, the gush, the spilling over
out of straws, jeans, bodies, mouths. The messes
we make. I squeeze again, already high on too far.
O the primal surprise when I hear, “Tara, stop it.
I said, stop!” I’m unclear of no and its partner,
guilt. The better world shut for me. This dimension
I still flirt toward, where we squeeze what we want to squeeze
to see what happens, then celebrate it. Where mom squeezes
back and we all laugh and roll around naked
in the sugary-stick of what is spilled and its reflection.