Colleen Abel 


My father ruled

the city of Tantalus,

which means that I was dangled

all through my babyhood

just beyond his armspan: my fat legs

swinging a bit, my fat hands

closing and unclosing as he tried to

reach out to me. This is

the lesson of fathers—

best to learn it quickly.




The lesson of mothers

takes a whole life.




I said,

Look at him, my son, my

little manifesto. Edible, beautiful.

I made him sit so

quiet for the still lifes.

All he wanted was for me

to run the cars across the carpet

and talk in funny voices.

I blew up their feeds with him.

Look at him, my son.




The woman in the coffee shop said,

Those eyelashes are wasted on him.

My mother said,

Never let him go anywhere alone.

A boy

that pretty?




All of us in the same story:

Children with breadcrumbs, children

in cinders, forgive us.

We will lock you in our tallest tallest towers.




This is the lesson

of mothers.

Love turns you

to stone.