Written by Gabriella Troy


my mother isn’t at the dinner table tonight.
she hasn’t been, for a while now, despite
her insistence that families are meant 
to bond over meals and find meaning in
school talk and laugh boisterously at the little
wonders of life, like the pasta sauce still
staining the edge of her sleeve. she’s forgotten
how to wipe away my worry, how to package
my problems in tidy folds of glittering paper,
how to glue my basketball trophy back into its
lofty glory. the seams of this family are starting to
fray without her delicate craftsmanship. she’s taken
on a new trade, grasping the spontaneous petals
of wistfulness that blossom in her mind like weeds,
leaving the roots of motherhood scattered on the dry
soil of this table. over the pan of soggy casserole, 
i can see she has that look in her eyes again. 
she pretends to to fill her seat, dutifully pushing peas 
around her plate. she thinks she’s successful, 
that her little smile can hide what’s splintering the wood 
between us—after all, my sister tunes out the world 
beyond the airpod tucked behind her hair, and my father
keeps his eyes down in his lap like he knows 
he should be ashamed of scrolling through bright
family pictures on facebook. those pictures are
staged. my mother’s smile is real: she’s dreaming
of a twinkling skyscraper office far from this
dingy kitchen and a big home to house dinner
parties with tables bigger than this chasm and i just 
wish she would let her fantasies float away
like driftwood so she could finally meet my eyes.

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