put your elbows into it
By Lilly Sabella
I’ve lived in the same home in Queens my whole life, and everything—from cabinet doors to cereal boxes—reminds me of my childhood. This is a poem about my parents and how I fit into our family.
My mother washed dishes my whole life her fingernails long and wet under suds of dish soap and with each smear of Dawn over our plastic plates and cups, she’d show me how to really put your elbow into it When you’re cleaning up after a man. My father ate dry cereal every night before he went to bed he’d take those plastic cups leave every cabinet door open every cereal box out and fall into bed with a groan his hip his back his knee always aching and on the nights he’d cramp and twitch I’d cry because his screams were so loud it had to mean Trouble, and with Cheerios crumbs pressed into his skin, he showed me How to really be afraid of a man. Some nights, lying in the middle of Mom and Dad like a cigarette between teeth they showed me broken glass in little girl feet Kind of love Knobby knees and questions from the police Kind of love All the neighbors hear nothing see nothing speak nothing Of this Kind of love But still, I remember Mom doing the dishes, Dad eating his cereal and me putting away cereal boxes and closing cabinet doors.
Lilly Sabella is a 17-year-old feminist, writer and co-owner of the online charity shop, Happy Thrifts. When she’s not writing you can find her casting spells, drinking bubble tea or gushing over her latest thrift store finds.