i learned how to bite the inside of my cheeks from my mother,
side smirk and chewing when she was anxious or craving or eating
the words she dared not say.
she used to tell me,
"a cat won't play with a dead mouse",
give up and roll over.
be responsible for the ending of
conversations, this is how to be
strong. she used to tell me that there was dignity
in a tail between legs, that you could escape as long as you held your head high enough
to avoid the disappointed eyes.
be the one to swallow the bitterness, fill your mouth with
bloody words, walk away
my mother taught me that the only way to win an argument
is to walk away first,
i have gotten very good
bite the inside of my cheeks until i am raw and penny-tasting, bite
to distract from the craving, make a mess
of my unopened lips.