Here’s another “odd” but traumatic childhood memory. There was a whole school year where I had trouble swallowing. Childhood worries? anxiety issue? I still don’t know.
The full belly of a glass candy jar, sealed with a clear lid,
sits by my place at the table, filled with little golden suns.
It is my prize if I can gain ten pounds in a month
placed there by my father, to encourage his little daughter of eight.
It shimmers with its yellow satin ribbon tied about the neck
while I struggle to choke down breakfast.
The more I think HOW to swallow,
the harder it is to get the toast to go down.
I chew until every bite is mush, chew until all is liquid,
hold that liquid, feeling like I’m drowning in my own mouth.
How do I swallow? I am stuck, the food is stuck,
the jar of butterscotch candies sealed, taunting me.
Each week I step on the scale. Am I losing still? Will I die?
Butterflies push up from my stomach.
Little by little I learn to swallow again, gaining on
the goal until the needle of the scale hovers at seventy pounds.
Dad tells me I can open it. I untie the ribbon, hear the snap of air
as the lid pops, then untwist the cellophane of a candy,
pop it in my mouth, the little sun melting on my tongue,
but as the treat glides around my mouth, I gag,
spit it out, discover I don’t like
the taste of butterscotch candies at all.