Poem: swallowing sounds like boiling water

This piece was published in 2013 in Burningword Literary Journal. I have it linked on my Poetry page, but it looks like you need an account on that website to see this now. So, here you go! Until recently, I considered this the best poem I had probably ever written. I might rework it later, but here it is in its original form.

I can feel a word
crawling up my esophagus
like tequila
in a red dress
or the kitchen table
that I swallowed when
my grandmother died.

I should have slipped into
the word when I married,
or when I learned to
measure coffee,
or when I first shrank
from small hands, small toes.

One day, it will become
more than a word.
It will be a song
a eulogy
a dissertation.
It will be or has been
my mother’s hands
made of flour
boiled in chicken bones,
and her smile
heavy with the weight
of the kitchen table
in her stomach.

One day,
I will be old enough
or brave enough
to speak the word,
or write it in a journal
that may be read
by my daughters.
I may finally cloak myself
in the word and allow it
to rush from my esophagus
where it is now stuck.

But for now, I let the word
“motherhood”
linger like a tickle
in my throat
or a flame
under the teakettle
of my childhood.

Let it steep.
There will be time to drink later.

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