His sisters boil yams, watching
air, like salmon, furrow the water.
There are ways of telling
someone is becoming smaller, and our mother wrinkles
her forehead full of shadows, patterns
tea leaves in the shape of a fist.
This is not what we’ve been waiting for
the whole week, sweet
potato smell tumbling
through the rooms and Gramma Ella
spread across the couch like soft cheese.
This is not our father rupturing
doorways, ones we never knew
were there, tucked behind the fridge
and hidden by a curtain of ivy—not
him saying, Look,
and us searching
his pockets for hard candies.
clacks against Ella’s teeth, and her voice climbs
the tunnel of her throat.
It burns me up inside, she says, and for years
I’d picture her with P. T. Barnum,
hair pulled tight as the checkered dress
she might have worn, mouth caverned
to accept the fire.