by Josh Olsen


I turned away from mom’s breath

when she whispered into my ear.

Hints of vomit escaped her thick veil of perfume.


For years, she “improved” herself

sticking pens down her throat.

To keep myself from crying,

I made cruel jokes.


As the purging became more frequent

so did her perfuming –

her favorite, a heady opium oil,

a birthday present from an ex-boyfriend.


The scent penetrated everything.

Her letters funked up the mailbox.


My children needed sponge baths

after she babysat.

She used to smell cold,

like snow or cucumbers.

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