The National Poetry Review

Julie L. Moore


her husband enters the house, & again, her body shakes,
first her stomach, quivering in its acid,
then her back & shoulders tightening,
curling her, not into a ball,
but into a hunchback, a grotesque formed
by fear, for he is here—

he who’s now threatened over & over to leave her,
even on Mother’s Day as she lay in bed,
nausea festering in her throat like streptococcus,
gagging her, driving her under sheet & quilt,
where she prayed like King David, Do not be far
from me, for trouble is near

& begged for her bones to stop burning.
He loomed over her, not to give her
flowers or say he’s sorry, but to hand
her a card that read, What a gift you are,
then warn, again, If you won’t let me
be friends with her,

I’m leaving you.
Today, she hovers over pots of sauce & pasta,
water in one, trembling like her hands,
then boiling over before her eyes,
scalding the stove top’s ceramic skin,
ominous aura

of sizzle & smoke blinding
her every breath. I love you, he’d said
to his daughter, home from college that terrible May day
when he did what he promised & left—but then came back.
I wish you loved my mom, she’d countered,
wanting to untie

the knot of his manipulation,
expose the divided heart at the center
of his universe, daughter who now sits at the table
while marinara splatters
here, here, & here.

JULIE L. MOORE is the author of Particular Scandals, published in The Poiema Poetry Series by Cascade Books. Her other books include Slipping Out of Bloom and Election Day. A Best of the Net and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Moore has had her poetry published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Image, Nimrod, Poetry Daily, The Southern Review, and Verse Daily. Her work also has appeared in several anthologies, including Becoming: What Makes a Woman, published by University of Nebraska Press, and Every River On Earth: Writing from Appalachian Ohio, published by Ohio University Press. You can learn more about her work at