In the car she scolds me for swearing,
for slipping out the word sugar
with the same spitting fury I’ve heard
spring from her mouth.
‘That is a bad word, you don’t use!’
It’s the first time I start to feel
an undercurrent to the sounds I speak,
their tidal rip of meaning
drawing out what you meant to say
when you’ve said something else.
She swears more the older I get,
until neither of us mark the words
fumbled out in frustration.
Profanity softens its edges
until it looses itself in language.
But elsewhere, when I am alone,
instead of fuck I say fudge,
sweeten the foul with icing
despite the screech in my speech.
Fudge is a bad word, I too often use.
Today’s official NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem about a memory of a small habit your parent had, then to move into you picking up the same habit. There are a few things I’ve picked up from both my parents, my inability to walk past a deli-counter without buying ‘a few tasty treats’ is something I share with my dad. I chose to go with my mother’s use of the word sugar as a swear word instead. Now my sister and I are both grown, she is less worried about swearing in front of us, but I remember quite vividly being told off for ‘swearing’ because I said the word sugar with the intention of using it as a bad word.