All in by Jennifer Sutherland

by Jennifer Sutherland

Twilight, and I hear

her voice, familiar

kettle-hiss.

Quiet, girl,

she commands; then

my childhood rooms

are here, each

one dark as pitch,

bulls-eyed, red-

end cigaretted.

In the center

Mother sits,

seething.

Labyrinthine lady

fulcrum : rattle

preening. Tiny

importuning click/

click/click of gas

as she warms

the morning’s

coffee, aluminum

saucepan tap

and pour. Snap

of air trapped inside

her. Cricket clatter.

The house, its grid

of trenches, of gangrene

and defilade,

unacknowledged.

Rainbow-sheen halo

of puff and smoke,

her whisper-drab

devotional,

her pieta. Membrane

contracting, clutching

fibrous wall

and sinew.

Lung, spasming 

and black,

immobile,

wheeze and block.

I must

have frailed her,

asked too much

of her thin-stretched

décolletage,

engendered

a reaction.

When she died the

aperture swelled to many times

its anxious size.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jennifer Sutherland is a mostly former attorney and current MFA student at Hollins University, where she is also an assistant poetry editor for the Hollins Critic. Her work has appeared in the Northern Virginia Review and Anomaly, among other places, and her poem, “An Elegant Variation,” won Streetlight's 2018 Poetry Contest.