At dinner, my dad says after I was born
_ _ I devoured laced milk. My mother’s
_ _ brined sorrow was my first elixir for sleep.
I learned from her how to cry without stopping
_ _ in those first months.
_ _ & its sorrow were entwined monsters.
_ _Let him speak plainly: he would have left her
alone with my monstrous infancy & my brother,
_ _ only three, playing with his trains on the floor.
I want to reduce berry down to bitter.
_ _ I want to tell stories of my self-centeredness like I invented it.
The trick is to tell stories like a man.
_ _ The trick is every story is a hero’s journey
_ _ if it’s told without remorse.
My inheritance is my mother’s honeycombed sorrow,
_ _ my father’s deluged retreat.
I read once that female babies survive stressful pregnancies
_ _ more often than males.
Even at birth they leave when it’s too hard.
_ _ “mothers” as monster,
_ _ miss the other in the middle, moth
drawn to bright window at night
as he leaves, and says the children are only hers.
Laura Villareal, a 2019–20 National Book Critics Circle Fellow, is the author of the poetry chapbook The Cartography of Sleep (Nostrovia! Press, 2018). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Grist, AGNI, Black Warrior Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere. (updated 4/2020)