“After You Moved Away & I Kept Growing Up” by Amanda Robins

Entrapment, Natalie Christensen

Today I felt a prickle, a sticky,
cough in my throat, tongue heavy, eyes watering,
a falling out, two yellow tonsil stones 
clinging to the tip of my pointer finger. 
It was impulse that told me to smash them, to smell:
like when I left the dirty dishes in the sink

three days after holiday company, three days of sinking 
mornings into sinking afternoons, of lapping up sticky
meringue from the pie pan because I was out of plates.  The gray smell
of sour dishwater
when my curdled fingers
dig up stones

of egg noodles & sweet potatoes, half broken stones
drawn out with a fork. Water sinks 
into a throat; I fill it again, one finger
testing the temperature. Or the stick
in the rusted can of rainwater
& smashed dandelion I kept behind the tires in the yard, a smell

a seven-year-old thought could be old magic; every day, eyes closed, I’d smell
my potion, pleading for something clean to love me. Driveway stones
sprinkled in for their music. Like adding water
to the compost pile by the garage. When it’s soft & the apple cores sink
in the wet dirt. Maybe a stickier 
smell, like the end of a finger.

Like yellow beneath the nail of my pointer finger.
Like seventh period & I’m afraid to ask the nurse for a tampon. Like when they called me “Smelly.”
Like how a name like that sticks.
Like how your stoned
mother sang like my stoned mother. Your sink
swallowed roaches like mine; your tap water

not my rusty, orange tap water
but we didn’t drink from either tap, did we? You didn’t point your finger
at the dead mouse in the sink.
That dying smell. 
Like your house (empty), my stomach (a gravestone).

A glass of water, a clean throat, this small
rotten place on my finger. A piece of yellow stone
under my nail, hardened pus sinking beneath the cartilage, stuck.  

✶✶✶✶

Amanda Rachel Robins works as a teacher in Missouri. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Slipstream, The Moth, Sweet Tree Review, Literary MamaCrack the Spine, and others. Her fiction is published in MudRoomThe Forge Literary MagazineMoon City Review, Gone Lawn, Potomac Review, Opossum, and others.

Award-winning photographer Natalie Christensen focuses on ordinary settings, seeking the sublime. She deconstructs to color fields, geometry and shadow. Christensen has exhibited in U.S. and international venues. She was a UAE Embassy culture tour delegate, an Artist-in-Residence at Chateau d’Orquevaux, France, and Setanta Books, London, published 007 – Natalie Christensen. She has work in permanent collections and her photography has been featured in many noted fine art publications.