My mother’s hands were rough and calloused. There was ink under her nails that she scrubbed away every night with a prickly brush, taking care to work the gold band off her left ring finger. Manicures were out of the question. She was the mechanic, tending to the large apparatus that churned out my ticket to a better life. There were plates to be changed and cylinders to be washed and coated with a new layer of warm red, classic blue, or whichever color was missing from the Pantone catalog that my father would mix with his own hands. My mother never let me touch the machines, but she prescribed methods for circumventing their inherent danger to small children. Keep your thumb out of the way so it stays intact, she told me. Stand outside when I’m cleaning; do not inhale the fumes. Build a fort with your brother, play behind the cardboard walls to shield him from the mercury rays. I come away from these lessons with paper cuts and the smell of ink on my clothes, a life of toil and sacrifice branded on the surface of my tender heart.
A New Yorker now based in Maryland, Kimberly Go has started publishing again after a decade-long hiatus. Her poems appeared in elimae and Word Riot a long time ago. When she isn’t working in public health or drafting constrained fiction, she contributes list articles about pop culture to Screen Rant and The Gamer.
See more of her work in 8.4