Shannon Azzato Stephens

I’ve always loved the way you stack your plates

before you are finished eating.

With the salad saucer atop the lasagna platter,

you pick at raw spinach

and saw into your cherry tomatoes with a steak knife.

This morning your hands began shaking

as we cleared the breakfast dishes.

A whole tower of teacup upon saucer

upon cereal bowl on dinner plate

with forks and two oatmeal-coated spoons

wedged between the layers

rattled its way out of your fingers

and spread their splinters across the kitchen floor.

It took me an hour to find the last chip

of our gold-rimmed wedding china

underneath the potted jade plant in the corner

that seemed to grow itself into gnarls

more quickly since you were diagnosed.

At lunch, we made sandwiches on paper plates

and you asked me to cut your tomatoes

while you gazed at the jade plant quivering

in the breeze from the open window.

Shannon Azzato Stephens is a Creative Writing and Visual Arts student at Carnegie Mellon University, where she is poetry editor for The Oakland Review. Past adventures include a stint in Americorps, a series of bike tours on the Northeast Coast, living everywhere from New York City to Biloxi, Mississippi and attendance at the Southampton Writers Conference, where she studied with Billy Collins.

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