Jennifer Gravley

Slice after Slice

A month before my mother will never eat again, she has the surgery—the cancer sliced off her tongue, slice after slice, until they are sure it is gone, the muscle pulled from her writing arm, right near the wrist and sewn as a tongue onto the stump, the skin torn from her thigh to cover the hollow place on her arm. She has already had the feeding tube growing from her belly, learned to clean around the miraculous second bellybutton that connects her to a tube she coils into a coin purse she wears tied around her waist.

When she suffocates a month later, we stand next to her bed and watch. We try to drop morphine into the tube too late. There are jars of baby food on her bookshelf, the soft food of transition back to her life. While we wait for the men from the funeral home, my sister eats a turkey sandwich. I won’t eat that day until everyone is gone. I won’t eat that day with my mother on her bed dying or dead. I won’t eat that day.

I think I won’t ever eat again, but I do. On the day of the funeral, I cut myself a slice of chocolate cake and eat mostly the icing. My sister takes the baby food to someone who has a baby. We move the pudding cups to the refrigerator, and we eat them. At some point there will be no food in the house that was there when she was. We will have to eat all of it ourselves.


Jennifer Gravley makes her way in Columbia, Missouri, where every autumn the extremes of weather fade and she enjoys some lovely temperate days. Her work has recently appeared in Bayou Magazine, Front Porch, and Sugared Water. If she could get all of her nutrition from chocolate–well, let’s just say that she has certainly tried!