No matter how many times,
this story is told
it ends in the clutched throat
tight rope walk
across my mothers veins.
My voice breaks
so I never breach
her rigid boundaries.
“Step on a crack,
you break your mothers back.”
I am five years old and learning
to be my mother’s mother.
I do not know how to be cared for,
only how to nurture…
How to turn other’s pain
into my own.
I know to hold it
and rock it to sleep
but never lay it down,
in case it were
to wake screaming.

I am so afraid of others
doing the same.
I have seen
the bending backwards
too far
until the breaking
belongs to anyone
or everyone else’s
tight rope walking,