sugar water by Kelsey Amos

my mother’s fingers are fat like sugar cane
the juicy kind that bulges, between the joints
enveloping her wedding ring

she says my fingers are SO skinny!
like that’s a bad thing
like it offends her
maybe she is a little bit right

I cry when I talk to her about my period
I don’t have one—this is perfectly normal, I’m told
by slightly annoyed gynecologists, when you’re on the pill
you might not have one, some people don’t
you might be too skinny, adds my mother
your body needs fat to know you’re a woman

we willingly regulate ourselves, my mother and I
she keeps track of her insulin levels, eats snacks, takes medicines
I remember the red bubble of blood rising from her pricked finger
every day, when she was pregnant with my sister

I look forward to pregnancy
its fullness, fruitfulness
I don’t think about the havoc it can wreak on a body
the tides of sugar rising and falling
I thought I was just grouchy, as girls are
I didn’t consider that food demands respect and consistency
that we are like burning fires
embers glowing in the stomach
stoked and tended carefully

when I was little I watched Picture Bride with my mother
I remember the baby that got burnt in the cane fire
my mom cries openly watching movies, her tears spurring mine
how does my mother reconcile this?
the cane field that takes children from immigrant mothers vs.

the memory of sucking on fresh sugar cane
that grandpa brought home
from the plantation

the way we licked the hand that fed us
riding along on the tides of sugar, rising and falling

and then irony: did you hear?
there’s sugar in the water today
a spill in the harbor
molasses meant for mother cows, their insulin spikes, their crashes
make them fat, and then they’re killed

did they know they were women?

meanwhile, the fish are gasping
and a few concerned citizens are wondering,

why there was no regulation?

a violence has been done
but the story is about better regulation of
our waters and sugars
our hormones and blood

my mother should have ate better, I tell myself
this was preventable
if she exercised and lost weight
cared a little about her figure
all that bullshit
I dare to think
about my mother

all the while, I’m starving

I want to be a fat, full harbor
cradling all life in my roundness
my currents flowing free and unfettered
washing over reefs and fish and even
the wriggling creatures in their sludge
my slime, inviolable
my crevices, inhabited
all the sugar in the world, diffused safely
in soil, sun
the fruit of the land that
my mother peeled and sliced and fed to me
sitting on the kitchen steps
licking our fingers

About the Author:
Kelsey Amos is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She writes poems and sometimes some of them are kind of OK. Lately her poems are about Hawaiʻi, anxiety, and longing.