“Stepmother” by Kendra L. Tanacea

Kendra L. Tanacea


Because he hates chocolate, you’ll bake lemon cakes
and lemon tarts, trying to make the sour sweet.

You’ll ride roller-coasters with him until you are dizzy
and sick and the whole world is spinning.

Your husband will ask you to leave, and you will, taking long walks
alone in the shade of the redwoods, or wandering the aisles

of Safeway until you are asked to return. In the morning,
when you are naked in bed, covered only by a thin sheet,

this boy will walk in. You’ll stiffen like a corpse,
remembering that Tom told you when he was thirteen

all he wanted to do was look at his stepmother’s breasts.
Your husband will chide you for failing to pour his son a cup

of cranberry juice or neglecting to toast a bagel, convincing
evidence you have no maternal instincts. Your stepson

will finger through all your things and you’ll start
sleeping with your clothes on and your purse at your side.

You’ll police yourself so carefully that you are no longer yourself,
just a ghost of a woman who silently slips in and out of bed.

And you’ll realize the trouble you’re in when the young boy
at Albertsons carries your groceries all the way to your car,

smiles, says, good to see you, asks, how are you doing?
and overcome by his generosity, you mistakenly

hit the wipers, spraying, then streaking the windshield.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007

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