Younger than

She married young, younger
than her mother, widowed once over, who

in grief lathered butter on the tops of the cats
paws, and watched, her

scattered breathing a haunted limerick, as
the cat licked and licked,

contented to be bothered,
mercilessly. She married

young, so as to give birth, younger than
her mother had, in rearing her on children,

the dark kitchen, a portrait in salted toast,
a kiss smelling of peanut butter, and unwashed

hair—hair that grew long and flaxen before
her pregnancy. Her pregnancy which fell on her

like a rainstorm; and as she cracks eggs in
the frying pan she remembers the Greek

myths her father told her about, or the tales
of Iran and the war that her husband whispers

in his white nightmares. She was younger than,
watching the yoke sizzle, her smile

calamitous, a riot of rotting shoes on the back
porch, but she is not her mother,

she is deadlocked in a hand-me-down bed, asleep
next to the specter of the man who gave her

the child suckling a sore breast. She is younger
than the woman she has become, but age is

alkaline, a soft dirge of downy flesh at the back of
the neck—a neck,

unkissed, any longer. Blinded by the rot and
dirty windows and fingertip smudges

on the foggy glass panels that separate her
from who she was; what she did and

what she had done to make up for it. Younger
now than before, but still

she kisses the girl-child on the head in parting
solemnity, in stubborn resistance, the last

thrush of an actor in a movie she once saw, flirting
with circumstances in movie quotes, and

closing her eyes to make it through another
grey evening. Still,

she cradles what once was, in one crooked arm,
bottle in one hand, and a cigarette in the other.