Above the Dining Room Table
by Montana Leigh Jackson
in a room among all who share my lifeline, i watch as we ebb through polite conversation while i fold myself into the perfect daughter/sister/niece.
i am offered a glass filled with a liquid tinged with the promise to set a slow burning fire in the pit of my stomach/ i take it and wait for the sparks to catch/ my uncle
leans in, congratulating me on reaching adulthood, as if every birthday up to this
point has only been a trial that has made me nothing more than a prospect/ but sitting around all those who wear the lines in their faces not as badges of honor but of wounds unwilling to close, i feel like an impostor.
my mother says pass the turkey/ in my mind i hear tell me about the one time you…/my hands pass her the bird with the bones holding it together while i try my hardest
to give her the coordinates to the ones in my own closet/ but she doesn’t speak
Silence—too eager to fill it with Noise/ i hope she’ll learn to see the good in quiet
spaces/ see how they gift you with the privilege of filling them any way you’d like/ i wish this every time she opens her mouth.
i twirl the stray pieces of dinner around the surface of my plate/ rotating them clockwise in hopes it will trick the hands across from me to move the same/ a pea flies far off into a distance that makes me wonder about time and space and how gravity works and why was i not allowed to move that quickly and that smoothly to a space
far away?/ someone kicks me from below the dining room table but i don’t blink/ another asks if i’m still hungry but forgets to ask for what?/ all the while i’m busy
rattling off a list of Life Goals for the audience/ too focused to break character/ too busy wondering how good i look wearing the costume my parents sewed for me.
if my sadness was a room i could walk around without the feeling of claustrophobia/ in the
vast space, i’d recognize every twist and turn—even if blindfolded/ but happiness is a space whose size i’m unsure of/ every twist a headache/ every turn ending in bruising/ every minute spent confined by
the teasing beats of my own heart: how long? how long? how long?
when the table is quiet and the spaces beneath our ribs are full/ i clear the white bone of the china plates, stacking them with such precaution that my mother wants to take back what she said about me being so careless/ but then they rattle just a little too much and my arms shake a little bit more/ and i watch as she looks away.
when i tell my mother i want to die, she tells me she wants a daughter who doesn’t dramatize/ who isn’t so selfish/ so self-centred/ that we can’t get everything we want in the world/ so i try to find out how to unlearn the way of changing all my stories into myths/ but my tongue is gathering too much business to shut down the stage/ and my heart, which longs for the starring role, is too ridden with fright to take its mark.
i wash the plates with my sleeves kept down/ allowing the heat of the water take me to a place that isn’t this kitchen/ to a place where i am not sick, to where i am not this way/ to one where i can scream across wine glasses without someone so much as blinking/ but my sadness will never be allowed to be a guest at this table and it’s outgrowing the space i’ve carved out for it backstage/ longing loudly instead to walk
out into the light—all eyes on it.
Montana Leigh Jackson is a communication studies student at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She finds peace among words and within thunderstorms.