Jessica Tyner

Childhood

Two memories from when I was three
define my mother and father. A bath in the chipped
tub bubbling from generous squirts of dish
soap that dried my skin. We could never
afford the real things.
The plastic horse squirt gun, half
full. My father came in
to shave his neck, swiping the blade neatly
around his moustache. When he finished,
he turned and scanned my naked body.
I shot him in the face,
scrubbed away his searching eyes and that
is how I learned what a gun is for.

I suckled my mother’s breast until I could speak
because she wanted me to. The warm milk
filled my mouth, spreading to my limbs
like a drug. I lay on her chest in their bed,
a cartoon boxing match between a chicken
and a lamb on the TV. They squealed in one ear,
her heart beat in the other. As a bell rang and the animals
began circling, the nipple engorged
against my tongue, grotesque and huge, and that
is when I learned what teeth are for.
Years later, I watched my best friend’s
five-year-old daughter
try to cover her mother’s
chest with a blanket while her infant brother
was breast fed. A child discovers shame
as quickly as a farm animal
gets the metal bolt to the brain.


Jessica Tyner Jessica Tyner is originally from Oregon, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and has been a writer and editor for ten years. She has recently published short fiction in India’s Out of Print Magazine, and poetry in Slow Trains Literary Journal, Straylight Magazine, Solo Press and Glint Literary Journal.

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