Fat in the Can

Liz Dolan


On the shady back porch of his summer home,

Uncle Dan, even and easy like my mother,

constructs a lamp from wooden matchsticks.

Calls me Crisco. Aunt Mary cuts chunks

of gelatinous lard into the flour

in the vermilion bowl. I am eleven,

in t-shirt and shorts, and click my Wrigley’s.

I cringe and shrink from him. Nine years later,

as I take the novice’s white veil,

he stands proudly next to me,

my starved body swallowed by the folds

of a lily-colored linen gown and scapular,

my thick hair shorn, my face as pallid as a scone.


At five the Sisters chose me to crown the Virgin

Queen of the May. She was elegant,

imperially slim, unlike my full-breasted mother,

whisking the stir-about, mewling babies on each hip.

Her brother Dan, still single, reading The Daily News,

slurps cereal and sips from a china cup

the tea she brewed for him. She was a slave.

Each day in school the Virgin loomed above us

her exquisite hands outstretched, index finger

beckoning me.

One by one we dropped our daisies–

her perfected foot crushing the head of the serpent.



[First published in Philadelphia Stories]


Liz Dolan, a Pushcart nominee in both poetry and fiction, has published poems, memoir and short stories in New Delta Review, Rattle, Harp Weaver, The Cortland Review, Illuminations, Natural Bridge and others. She received a fellowship and grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts and was chosen for the master’s level retreat with Fleda Brown, Delaware Poet Laureate. Her work in Mudlark was chosen for The Best of the Web by Web Del Sol.  Liz was recently accepted as an associate artist in residence with Sharon Olds at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She is on the poetry board of Philadelphia Stories and won a prize in "The Art Of Storytelling” contest from the Delaware Museum of Art.