She peels gum from the sidewalk,
pops it in her mouth, ignores the grit.
There is some sweetness left.
Skip and chew, skip and chew,
she gloats to herself—sure that none
of her siblings had gum today.
She once heard her mother say—
Don’t ever swallow gum or it’ll stay
in your stomach for seven years.
Seven plus seven—I’ll be fourteen then.
* * *
Tonight for dinner, again they pick
dandelions in the backyard, catch
crayfish from the brook.
She eats the bitter salad. Refuses the meat.
For dessert—she retrieves her gum
from beneath the table.
The sweetness is gone.
She thinks of another place to stick it—
on a park bench, the apple tree trunk,
the tar-coated telephone pole—
because she can’t swallow it.
She just can’t.
Seven years is a long time.
Lisa J. Sullivan holds an MFA in Poetry from the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College, where she was a Kurt Brown Memorial Fellow. Her work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Comstock Review, Puckerbrush Review, and elsewhere. Her ekphrastic piece “To the Bog of Allen” was selected as the United States Winner of the 2013 Ireland Poetry Project contest in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets. She is an associate editor for Lily Poetry Review Books and a poetry editor for Pink Panther Magazine.