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She loved us too much
it was like fumes
from burning rubber
filling up a narrow tunnel
with padlocks on the exits

we grew up choking
and coughing violently

our eyes were constantly
stinging with tears
and we learned to keep
our heads down
and our mouths covered

She loved us too much
she held it against us—
every too-late dinner
every too-early breakfast
every dream she gave away
every trip she didn’t take
every day that we were sick
every ounce of compassion
that we didn’t ask for
that she gave bitterly,
distilled into poison
that she drank
with her morning coffee

And now that I’m free
I sometimes still
don’t know what to do
with all the clarity

“Julia” by photographer Anastasia Plehova


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