“May I please have a piece
of candy, grandma, please,
may I?” Water runs in the kitchen.
She doesn’t hear. Little boy’s hand
reaches into green glass bowl,
on the coffee table, waist high.
His fingers grab the golden candy, hold it up
like a trophy, the cellophane crackling. “Young man!
Her lips line up, a race he cannot win.
“Did you ask? Did you say may I?”
His bottom lip quivers, he looks down
at the pink carpet, down
at his Buster Brown shoes, one untied,
at the candy, golden juice
on his sweaty palm. He feels
his lips close around it, smiles
under the shag
of his bowl cut.
“Look at me
when I talk to you.” Her nails
jerk his jaw up. His hair flops back,
the candy too
to the back of his throat
where it sticks. His eyes reflect
the sun above the empty courtyard
outside. She reaches
for his ankles, one in each hand,
pulls him up. His hair brushes
the carpet, a drop of drool runs
over his forehead, lands.
“Spit it out! Spit
it out! Do you hear me?
Do what I say!” Up, down,
up, down. The candy
flies from his mouth, sticks
to the carpet. Up. She lets go.
He lands, forehead, nose, then cheek,
coughs, and cries dark spots onto the rug.
“You just lie there and think
about what you’ve done.” Grandma
knits her hands together, thumbs rub fast
over her fingers. Ten red crescents
bloom on little boy’s ankles.
Shawna Ervin is an MFA candidate at Rainier Writers Workshop through Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state. She is studying nonfiction and poetry and is a recipient of the Carol Houck and Linda Bierds scholarship. Shawna is a Pushcart nominee and attended the Mineral School residency thanks to a fellowship from the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Recent publications include poetry in Tampa Review, Euphony Journal, Evening Street Review, Hiram Poetry Review, The Phoenix, and Raw Art Review; and prose in COG, Apalachee Review, Front Porch, The Delmarva Review, Summerset Review, Superstition Review, and Willow Review. Her chapbook Mother Lines was published in January 2020 by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Denver with her family.