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My parents appear in a dimly-lit kitchen–
orange floral wallpaper, sunburst clock, 
marigold countertops, crocheted tablecloth, 
wilted spider plant in a macrame hanger.

Dad sits at a table, tries to read the paper.
There is no news.
Eats Cream of Wheat out of a blue bowl 
I have boxed somewhere in my basement.

Mom wonders why there isn’t a sink. 
Points to shelf after shelf of bottled water. 
None of them open, she says.
& Dad confirms their stubbornness with a nod.

I note his empty glass, 
the half-moons frowning on his fingernails, the cracks 
in Mom’s lips, the plastic fortress 
of Smartwaters stacked from popcorn ceiling 

to swollen linoleum floor—
I must be thirsty.
They must be here to quench something—
It’s useless. We have already tried.

I can do it, I say. 
But I am not confident. 
& my mouth is dry
& I have no tears left as I take in a close-up 

of my thin-skinned hands opening
container after container after container—
We are all amazed I have succeeded.
No one drinks any water 

& this is how it ends.

Victoria Nordlund is an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut. Her poetry collection Homer Saw a Wine-Dark Sea was published by Main Street Rag in September 2020. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize Nominee, whose work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Chestnut Review, Rust+Moth, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Visit her at

© 2022, Victoria Norlund

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