Mother of my mother, her knotted knuckles cradled
my scraped elbows, the heaviness of my childhood
heart. Her beauty unrepeatable, blistering. She stands
hunched over the sink, peeling potatoes, buttering bread,
in the yellow light of the pre-war kitchen she is ageless.
When I think of home, I think of her,
kindness dripping from her embrace like honey.
The wrinkles of her cheeks soft, like crushed velvet.
We are the same faux rose in a dusty, crystal vase.
I am cut from the long sinews of her arms,
I am stitched together with her veins.
The treble of my voice is the child of her voice,
that timeless, velvet rasp.
The summer you drown stuck
our legs to leather seats like chewing gum
on the bottom of a shoe. You were pulling
handfuls of buffalo grass while the boys
played bocce behind us. You said
the grass was soft like infant hair.
You wanted to capture it, keep it
green, in your velvet pouch
where you kept the baby teeth.
Those little, ivory jewels. You’d wear
them like pearl earrings if you could.
You never told us what happened, but
you were steadfast in collecting
your pieces. You planned to make
yourself into a human mosaic.
You wanted to rebuild the child
in your eyes.The baby goat sheared
for its virgin wool.
Your Northern Wild
There’s a wilderness in here.
Confusion branches out of tree trunks,
sadness grows in small shoots at knee height.
The birds clear their throats with high pitched abandon.
The moon’s violent pull causes an impossible upheaval
on the once placid lake. The vines’ long, clawing
hands try to take hold, while the mud deeply inhales
the soles of my boots. I am no Jacques Cousteau.
How do you expect me to trek so gingerly, to leave no trace,
while still pushing my way through this brush?
That winter split me
like firewood. I was smaller,
splintered, Elliot Smith would play
on cassette in my blue Volkswagen
while our breath coursed
through flared nostrils and damaged lungs.
I hid my pain like a sick dog. I slinked
out, under the back deck,
I swallowed some pills.
In those hideous places
I can still smell the acrid, peaty heat
of your breath, reeking like remorse.
But even though you swore that you left
I still caught you shoplifting.
Greedily, you shoved
every broken piece of me
into your pockets.
The more you took, the more
I couldn’t help but remember you
feeding our cats, their tails licking
around your ankles like muted flames.
And now I’m jealous of people
I don’t know. I want to be that stranger
sitting across from you on the subway.
I want to claim the dust you leave behind.
I was wrapped in a bad dream like a towel,
wet feet on linoleum. I was too preoccupied to see
the cracked blood, to hear the silence until I was knee-
deep in your tomb.
Sometimes, I dreamt you were a baby being born,
waking to a pain that was not yours, a motherhood
I never had. It was always the same, the air was metallic
when I woke up. You were there, sleeping slack-jawed like a
skeleton on my makeshift mattress,
for what would be the last time.
I didn’t know there was something insidious living in your ribcage,
quietly sifting through the cracks, waiting for spring so it could spring.
I still wake up screaming,
“please crawl into my mouth, you can make a home in there!”
I saved your beard shavings in a porcelain egg, I no longer call my
mother. The tin can on the other end of the string is silent and rusted. I put crystals
everywhere to try to see your fleeting reflection,
to know that I’m capable of remembering more
than the warmth of your blood on my hands.