My mother wrapped herself in cigarette
smoke, a nicotine stronghold protected her from us—
a secret cancer-garden grew in her alveoli.

My sister’s refuge was starvation, anorexia wasn’t
even a word then. My mother proudly called
this willpower as she watched me

slurp ice cream in a soup bowl.
She did not know about the forbidden
stash of candy hidden in my pillowcase.

My father built a bathroom fortress in the attic,
fortified himself with The New York Times and bathroom

Now my sister and I are orphaned senior citizens. Skeletal,
my sister sneaks an extra piece of cheese and says,
what am I waiting for?

I can finally see my belly button,
an exercise bike has replaced my fat safe place.
I face my mother’s ashes while I pedal, imagining her

Vicki Iorio is the author of Poems from the Dirty Couch, Local Gems Press (2013), Not Sorry, Alien Buddha Press (2020); Send Me a Letter, dancinggirlpress (2015) and Something Fishy, Finishing Line Press (2018). Her poetry has appeared in numerous print and on-line journals. Vicki is currently living in Florida but she is NY4EVAH.