We uncivilized each other, battled  

by slap and pinch and bully,  

taught each younger one 


to blend, belong, become  

till weaned from the language  

we’d been born to.   


In summer, we rolled watermelons  

home along the sidewalk  

from the A&P, and argued 


over which of us was dropped  

into the Danube as if the story  

were an heirloom. And we endured  


haircuts from our father —   

the unintended angle of the bangs,  

the way our ears protruded,  


how we fumed afterwards.  

The neighborhood grew jungle cats  

belonging to nobody. One wandered in  


and birthed a litter in a corner  

of our kitchen — five wasted  

wild-haired things we nursed  


with bottles from our dolls.  

On nights when mother,  

corset-cinched like a great insect, 


and father, tonsured, leaning 

on a cane, went out on walks,  

we wound ourselves in bed sheets 


draped blankets down our backs 

like a queen’s train and strode 

the corridors of our kingdom. 

Vera Kroms | THE PEARS OF BUDAPEST | Red Mountain Press 2020