Earliest Memory

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.

Tara Shea Burke is from Virginia and lives in the East Mountains of New Mexico with her partner, their dogs, cat, and goats. She has an MFA from Old Dominion University, served as poetry editor for The Quotable and Barely South Review, and volunteers for and guest edits Sinister Wisdom, a Multicultural Lesbian Literature and Arts Journal. Her chapbook Let the Body Beg was published by ELJ Publications in 2014. Published poems can be found in The Fourth River, Prime Number Magazine, Adrienne out of Sibling Rivalry Press, and are forthcoming from Yellow Chair Review. Find more at http://tarasheaburke.wordpress.com/