Bob Bradshaw
Mama's Birthday

We looked forward to Mama's home cooking.
She loomed over us as children, anchoring our lives.
The world's border was the county line.

As soon as we stepped through the door
my brothers began to chirp "Mama, Mama."
We had brought extravagant gifts

but I could feel ourselves shrinking
in her eyes as she unwrapped them.

All week she criticized everything,
from our clothes to how we oversalted meals.

Even as we left for the airport
her eyes squinted, disappointed

by suits that were too loud
and shoelaces



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