• Abida Uddin

FROM THE DINING TABLE.

dinner at the table is not what it used to be.

you’ve cooked up an atmosphere for your children to feast on.

they sit in silence with their throats full of thorns.

intently, you watch the chair turned on its side.

you give it a glass, a plate,

a knife and a fork,

a place at the table.

you ask it if your husband is coming home

—it’s been seventeen years.

you light a cigarette

and your eldest son licks his lips,

he wishes for a taste of death too

but you let him starve.

he doesn’t want to watch you suffer anymore.

he’d rather die than sweep up another man’s broken pieces.

your daughters are merciful,

they tend to you like a garden

but you swat away their busy hands.

you haven’t seen the sun in forever

someone should tell them there is no use in

taking care of flowers that don’t want to grow.

your children aren’t hungry anymore.

one by one, they get up and leave.

you open your mouth to tell them

stop, you’ve hardly touched a thing

but you’re tired.

days and nights have passed.

your thighs rub together and bleed.

the dining room bulb gives out.

you’re in the dark.

the fridge door opens for a second,

the room floods with light,

you see the face of your husband in your son

and then it’s gone again.

you’ve aged a decade now.

your hair thins at the roots and dies at its ends

you pluck your eyelashes for some insight.

make a wish.

the dog cries,

folding its paws over its eyes.

you’re hard to look at.

even harder to love.

you draw crop circles with a steak knife on your stomach.

your belly is still soft with childbirth but no children to ease the pain.

your breasts hot and heavy with milk but you let it sit there and rot.


your son returns with boxes.


he takes the chair turned on its side

and the plate it eats from.

the tv plays reruns of family fortunes,

he takes that too.

the books stacked high on the shelves,

in between them a million love letters

over a million lifetimes from just one man.

he promises to burn them,

he tears the carpet apart,

where your daughter took her first steps,

where she spilled her first beer.

he takes a knife to the sofa,

and out pours your wedding vows,

the vhs tape that gets stuck half way.

he unscrews the bolts on the doors and lays them flat.

your spine feels the air again.

he pulls apart the curtains and

all the dust finally settles.

he walks around and stuffs all the feathered cushions into boxes

they grow wings and become birds again.

he stops,

your son stops and takes your face into his hands

his temple to yours

and he tells you

to forget.

everything.

he loves you even though

you’ve hurt him

he loves you even though

you’ve spent his life hurting.

he tells you that he’s coming home,

he’s going stay for a while.

his sisters too.

he’s got daughters of his own now.

they’ve all longed for you.

they’ve all prayed for you.

they’ve all finally forgiven you.


By Abida Uddin