STEP 1: For 20 years, swallow everything. Eat until you are the heaviest pillow on the
bed. Then eat three pills a day to stay alive.
NO. First, watch your mother build row upon row of poppies. And though you are only
four, she will tell you that they are opium poppies and she will lose her face in their black
crowns and stroke their cloth.
Then watch your father build a deck made of splinters and all summer run bare foot.
The kitchen floor will always be fresh-swept. And for the longest time no one will yell.
Then one night a fist will go through glass, then a rush to the phone. (Remember: A
black polished handset is a club that can split a mother’s lip. One drop of blood can be
Then your father will be three hours late each Saturday to pick you up. He will weave
on the highway and gesticulate to no one. He will forget to buy you food.
Your mother will blossom and grow rich on her own, build greatness out of nothing.
Because your father is weak and suffers so beautifully, you will love him best.
AND THEN, then you will marry your father. And never admit your mother was right.
And for 20 years, you will swallow everything. Eat until you are the heaviest pillow
on the bed. Eat three pills a day to stay alive.
You will be corpulent in your despair. You will shrink from your friends and they will
let you go.
Then someone dies. Someone your age dies and it is protracted. There is the slow-
leaking of life. Wasting. The wet and long goodbyes. Then new blue blazers
are purchased for the boys and funeral shoes.
NOW things move fast. You make a secret plan. You count up the coins and call
And though you hate yourself more than you know, you call the lawyer.
Kristina Bicher is a poet, translator and essayist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Harvard Review, Hayden’s Ferry, Narrative, Painted Bride Quarterly, Barrow Street, and The Atlantic, among others. Her chapbook Just Now Alive (2014) was a finalist in the New Women’s Voices Series. She received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.