If you can’t say anything nice

is how my mother would begin—
so I, like an unassuming mollusk,
maybe an octopus, would compress
myself into a spiraled conch
perched on my inner continental
shelf, where the not-nice lingers,
descending as silt and sediment
to the seabed—
an abyssal plain,
a volcanic hill,
layers of calcareous ooze
a hydrothermal vent of all
I was not allowed to air
on the sandy surface where I seethed.