Madolley Donzo

Thanksgiving Conversations


are only ever after                my throat burns from              the clear, crisp liquid hidden

            underneath my bed.             I sway             side to side                     run back up

stairs to my secret                              stash. The family is          almost here.        Take another
swig. Fix my shirt. Fluff my hair. Take another swig fix shirt fluff hair change shirt take swig
take swig take—                                     until I don’t                    know how much I’ve taken

the lights are too bright & carpet shocks me    every step I take the doorbell is louder than I’ve
ever heard it        conversations float,            clouds of words             around

              my head, never daring to           enter unless              welcomed.

                                                                                                                  Unlike my family.


My aunt comes first,              always on time            arms filled            with sausage peppers &

                                    criticisms drenched              in compliments.

                                              Your brown blouse is                     pretty

                                                          (though it was inappropriate last year)

                            Followed by her kids,                      my cousins:

D’s                      (not) wife                 (maybe) girlfriend             baby mother holds their two
kids in her arms,         his daughter lingers           behind, awkwardly         fitting into the entry

          the same way she fits            into their family.                Ambs enters with a fiance–

less Ish,                           talks of trips & (not) Forex an after            taste on her breath;

conversation clipped                     at the door, words lost

                                                  like her money in that pyramid scheme.

K & her boyfriend take                     up the space my                                   brother
doesn’t.                   He’s busy, an excuse               to hide his distaste             for the family.

                    I am forced                                                                   to mingle with people I
only talk                          to while we give thanks.                    My sister’s surrounded

                                                                        by dirty shoes kicked                           to side

& jackets thrown                   on worn-out couch. Her fingers fly

across                                her screen, my phone              pings:

                                                                            next year we aren’t hosting dinner.


                                              I stay back                            in the kitchen:

          check the bread,           use the blow torch for crème brûlée,

do everything                                          anything                                   nothing.

                      Fix shirt. Fluff hair.                          Don’t reach             for the bottle calling

          out to me, begging                   for a quick

return.                     Don’t ask. Don’t ask.                    Don’t as— How’s school?

Not                                                                                                                               fine.
Shut eyes. Sit down.                           Open eyes. Shut eyes.                     Hope I don’t

cry. It’s not fine.                  Never fine.

            Failing. No sleep. Can’t             relax. Not now. Not with them here.

                                                            Fix my shirt.


K’s white boyfriend                           (not the one from her birthday in August)

                                      scrapes fork on ceramic plate.

I stare                                         (emphasis on)                     her white Boyfriend;

my sister stares                           (emphasis on)                     her White boyfriend;

nobody else                   stares or talks to                                           him.

                                                Conversations about broken                 engagements—never

Ish’s because we can’t,               it’s too soon—, broken

              promises—(not) all the ones D’s made to his (not) wife             (maybe) girlfriend

                        baby mother—, broken                   bonds—we only share       niceties

at this table. I shove               dry turkey in my mouth—spoon             fulls of salty mashed
potatoes.                              No mac & cheese. Need more              dragonberry.

                                  What are you studying now?

They always ask. It never changes. I’m a                     psych

          major, but I’ll                                                   never make money. They hope,

like my parents, I change                     my mind. I won’t

if it means their disappointment.                                              Revel in that feeling & wish

                they were                     the mac & cheese (not here).


I need another                         long sip of                  not water—maybe

                                                                    the brown liquid because they won’t

leave.                   Let’s play a game? Is this gathering                 not charade enough?

            Please, it doesn’t                   have to be home, just go                           anywhere.

                    Give me space                       to mourn my peace. If I must stay                 home,

enjoy this meal,             provide a bottle of wine to wash down

                      the inconvenience. Lights dim &           conversations become crystal.

Dinner’s over


Madolley Donzo is pursuing an undergraduate degree at SUNY Geneseo in psychology and English (creative writing). She has been previously published in Recess Magazine, SUNY Geneseo’s only BIPOC, student-run literary magazine. When she is not working on editing different drafts of her pieces, she can be found in a reading nook with a fantasy novel in hand.