Exeunt

by Jessie Lynn McMains

the women in my family carry / secrets
in their mouths like cyanide / teeth, ampoules
full of fatal / poison to be bit in two / before
anyone else can get to them / hold themselves
cautious / like their bodies are loaded / guns
and they have itches they can’t / scratch
without their trigger fingers

the women in my family serve / bitterness
over easy / lemon yolk soaking into toast
spread / with a smear of sorrow so butter
cream / you can’t believe it’s not / pour black
coffee since the blues caught / them in the
breakfast nook where / they don’t tell
the story of my great-aunt

who / trapped in a marriage that made
her / gnaw at her own foot finally / said mama
I’m leaving him and her mother said no sweet
child / of mine is going to get divorced so / my
great-aunt got / into her car / cranked the
engine to life / found a way out without / ever
leaving the garage

the women in my family hide / escape
routes in their purses / next to their car / keys
sign their divorce papers / in blood / walk
into rivers their pockets heavy / with shame
taught me to always / check for the nearest
exit and know

when / to go whether with a suit / case
packed and one foot / out the door or limp
on the kitchen / floor with my pretty
little head in / the oven

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