Graduation (For My Mother)

by Sarah McKinstry-Brown

There's the number on the scale that used to move
with the ease of a feather in the breeze.

Not to mention the increase
of young men behind grocery store registers

whose sweet, heavy-lidded eyes only meet with mine
long enough to ask “Paper or plastic?” When they add

“Ma'am” without any hint of irony
or Southern hospitality, I know I'm slipping

into my mother's skin. I answer the phone
with her voice; her hands grind the coffee beans.

And who is this listening to NPR in the morning
while the fresh-faced girls in the neighborhood trudge toward school,

peonies hanging their heads under the weight of their own blossoming.