Her mouth was painted with what they wished was milk

Ntungwerisho Gareth Ezra


Mother lies on the floor, 
her mouth painted with white foam. 

In a room twenty steps away  
her daughter curses Mother for denying her 
the right to waste her life at a party. 

The maid picks spice jars 
from the pantry. When she sees Mother, they drop – 
paprika, masala, and pepper. They season  

mother’s body. The maid screams — loud  
enough to end Father’s dream. What’s the matter, woman?
The maid responds with more screams. 

The daughter, realizing that her wish has come
true, rushes to her mother’s side, stops in her tracks
and falls apart like an infirm house. Her mind is a pile  

of rubble. She scours it for anything but
finds nothing except the truth: I killed her. Her eyes water.
Father runs to the scene only to see his daughter wiping  

what they wished was milk off his wife’s mouth.
He pleads with God: Take me instead but the response
is silence. They clean Mother’s body, wishing to return  

it to its former glory. Breathing.

Letting Go


Martha, the only girl I had eyes for, texted, We’re over
as I headed home after my mother’s funeral
service. My eyes stayed locked on the grey message  

bubble, searching for the subtext to We’re over.
I didn’t find it so I asked my heart and mind
for advice. They said: Tell her

Why? I still love you, I typed. My eyes darted around
the car in search of a distraction just like my mother’s
eyes gazed around the doctor’s room after he checked her 

heart rate. My heart sank when Martha replied, Just.
The subtext was clear: I don’t love you. I recalled the doctor
telling my mother, Your heart is weak. Which meant, 

You’re going to die soon. A dagger ripped through my heart
then just like it did as I re-read Martha’s text. Through the car
window I watched clouds pursue us and I thought, How clingy 

until I realized I too was chasing after someone
who didn’t want to be pursued.