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First Words

My mother says brassiere,
explaining it was one of the first words
she taught me to say.
We are in the kitchen.
The table is set for a late breakfast.

She makes a joke about her mother's breasts
remembers that when she was younger
grandma would look at her chest and tell her,
"be thankful you take after your father."

She says it again, her mouth on the z's
and I try to imagine her, a younger woman,
wearing lace, satin, something not sensible.
I think of last spring when she broke her arm
and couldn't reach behind her back
how Dad would fasten the hooks.
He helped her with earrings, zippers
but drew the line at pantyhose.
Funny what a man will take off but not put on.

I wonder about the body opening
words the mouth will close around, or leave
behind doors, under tables. Sound striking out
from what we can't see.

Now, she is quiet. The kitchen turns
on some foreign axis,
a shift we recognize, could undo
with the tongue.

Printed in the Spring/Summer 1997 issue of CLR

Amanda Kaplan

Amanda Kaplan grew up in Richmond, Virginia. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University. She was the recipient of a National Intro Award from AWP in 1994 and her work has appeared in the Mid-American Review. She currently lives and teaches in Portland, Oregon.

You can find Amanda Kaplan on the web at:
—  Clackamas Community College


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