If you were blessed to have a mother
in the kitchen not wielding a knife
except to what was already dead,

you might know the feel of saliva
on your tongue, the body in anticipation,
and if you’re like me, remember the evil

with which you stole her cookies locked
in the freezer for the neighbors at Christmas,
the melting powdered sugar on the roof

of your mouth like snow, the Hershey’s chocolate
a frozen boat of joy sailing you away from your guilt
as if it never existed, while your mother still labored

in the kitchen, grating the parmesan cheese,
pounding the veal, stirring the red sauce
she’d simmer for hours, and you’d scoop

a few spoonfuls when she wasn’t watching
until the pot began to look lonely, the kids’ meal
an afterthought, because special occasions

meant only guests got the fancy, and it didn’t
take two hands to count the number of times
their best friends came for dinner and bridge

before you’d left for good, but ice box cake
deserved every kind of stealth for its whipped
cream igloo of wafers, and when you slid the knife

through its chilly foundation, you could hollow out
a room without anyone being the wiser, your gut
the keeper of every wrong move of your help-me-

while you grew and hid deeper by the minute,
though nobody else knew, but isn’t that why

the fermenting stink that now simmers
on your stove won’t turn sweet?
You will never be as good as your mother.


O’Fallon’s poems have been published in journals and anthologies such as Rattle, Orchards Poetry Journal, and Salt Marsh Press, along with three chapbooks. Her full-length manuscripts have been finalists for the Backwater Prize, the Inlandia Book Award, and the Henry Morganthau Award. O’Fallon is a psychologist in Carlsbad, CA.