Deborah Y. Moon | dried & sugared

before we fell out,
we gathered ‘round our lunch boxes every weekday
legs criss-crossed, knobbly knees clunking.
big, toothy smiles.
twelve years was ripe. you were
one year older, yet it didn’t matter.
(it never did)
we were the same. same height.
same straggly bones. same likes.

those bones grew brittle soon enough.
at first we pretended not to notice—
(we never did)
you gushed on about every farmer’s market visit,
your grandparents’ love for bulk purchases, spicy burnt rice.
it stopped eventually
as our cheek strength grew weaker.
boxed lunches switched to break snacks.
ten minutes, not forty.

it was when you bought those $4 dried mangoes at the groceries.
chewing placidly at the other side of the bench.
where i never got word. peacefully unnoticed.
a hand waved from my end.
a cordial smile returned.
to be polite, a taste offer.
to be polite, i accepted.
they felt like ancient skin. sparse and shriveled. sugarcoated
like our smiles.
but i chewed,
as bitter and salty as it felt.

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