She was staring the way a novel does that no one will ever open….
I learned a lot about hunger
early on. It was the way cancer
ate, always starving, feeding on
my grandmother in the bedroom
down the hall from mine. It was the last
month and the only time she lived
with us. I was eight and whenever
she moaned and groaned out loud,
I knew it was feeding, gnawing
on everything it could get its tumors
on until the night I heard nothing.
So I walked down the hallway that stretched
like taffy and slowly opened the door.
The bed she was in looked big as a ship.
Her arms were thin white bones lying
across her chest — a pirate flag resting
against the pillow. And she was staring
the way a novel does that no one will ever open,
no one will ever read again.
The above was excerpted from Playing Poker with Tennessee Williams by Kevin Pilkington (Black Lawrence Press, 2021).
Kevin Pilkington is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Spare Change (La Jolla Poets Press National Book Award winner); Ready to Eat the Sky (a finalist for an Independent Publishers Books Award); and In the Eyes of a Dog (winner of the 2011 New York Book Festival Award). His poetry has appeared in many anthologies and numerous magazines, including The Harvard Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, and Boston Review. His debut novel Summer Shares was published in 2012, and a paperback edition was reissued in summer 2014.