Touch was my first currency—
a payment made to sleep
next to my mother—
not close, just not alone.

She’d lie on her stomach
above the covers and ask
me to rub her legs, a chore
I did not want, but her voice
was sticky with pout

and loading no into the barrel
of my mouth was like pressing
a pistol’s lips to my own forehead,
so I let my nails catch the scabs
and calculated how long I had
to rub before it was safe to stop.

This was my first math,
measuring what I owed.