ZUHAUSE

All Oma ever talks about is dying
She sits in the splintering wooden chair
at the end of the dinner table,
shawl around her shoulders,
bitter coffee staining her 94-year-old teeth

She says she doesn’t want to shower,
that she would rather die instead
She says she doesn’t want to eat,
that she would rather die instead
Daddy says if she could will herself to death,
she would

Oma’s been this way since I can remember
And I wonder if maybe that’s why
Mama didn’t live with us
when I was 10
maybe Mama felt the way Oma feels
When I was 10

Maybe that’s why Mama left
our pretty little blue colonial,
why she went to work and didn’t come back,
leaving me with frozen dinners,
cold peas,
Daddy could never get the noodles warm,
there was always an icy spot
I wondered how Daddy felt

until I knew

And then he was screaming at my brother
before the sun had even found the strength to rise
And then I heard Mama’s voice
And my toes dug their way out of the covers
And pressed into the cold, wood floor

But there they stopped
when Mama’s voice turned harsh in a way I hadn’t heard it before
And I curled under my blanket
As there was a knock on the door
Mama let a man with a gun on his hip into
Our pretty little blue colonial
And suddenly he was yelling at my brother, too

And there I felt like Oma
And I wanted my words to be bullets
And I wanted it all to stop
And I thought
maybe when I am 94 and my enkelin is 10,
I will talk about dying, too.

Writing

Victoria Pallien
Oakland, New Jersey, BFA Writing