garlic

Photo by Rosie Lopolito

By Rosie Lopolito

back when i used to play house,
there were two little girls—
one charading a broad-shouldered
CEO in a polka-dotted skirt
and the other arranging plastic
food and flowers on a squat blue table.
they’d glow as they talked
about the kids they don’t have.

back before even then, a child with pigtails
would make soup in old clay pots
half-excavated in the backyard.
stirring leaves, mud, ash from the grill
with sticks, her little fingers
grubby with soot.

now you blacken cookies
by accident and scrape the burnt layer
off with a nail file. I kiss the dark
stubble by your ear and say
they are perfect as always.

now the cookbooks we read like love poems
line the cupboards and you squint
at the crooked poster I hung
with tape that peels cream-colored
chips off the wall,
our wall, and you are glad
for the excuse to buy paint.

now there’s just you and me
playing house with no children.
parents to ourselves,
we strip transparent skin
encasing tender green knots.
growing from the inside out,
like garlic,
we shed the paper tissue.

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