Mothers and Daughters

It is a mid July evening in Georgia.

We are at the ball park, sandwiched between

Two rusted, pro life trucks.

Above us, the deep baritone grumble of a

Summer shower.

The crack of the bat and my breath held, hoping.

An intern in the heavens flicks a switch and the cicadas cry as one, screeching and cheering her on.

Mosquitos take turns ravaging me, feasting on every bit of exposed flesh. I swat them heroically, but I only have eyes for her.

She does not like failing and she isn’t particularly good at this. I want her to be. Desperately. Laugh in the right spaces. Play the right sports. Be happy.

Be. Be in exactly the right way so that she never cries in the dark, helpless, considering all she never was.

I will try for nonchalance when she returns to the car. For a moment she is haloed by the sun, surrounded by pale faces. She is golden and she is light.

She holds the ball that she was gifted tight in her hand, as fragile as a robin’s egg. Somewhere a strong mother is using this very moment to build a stronger daughter.

I want to be a stronger mother. I want to give her advice. Make this a sage moment that she will remember later.

So I grab her empty hand, and she lets me hold it. I turn down the radio and let the cicadas sing us home.

Four Years Gone

There is no

Dust where you once dwelt,

No darkened edges of pages that

Once bore your hand.

There are no memories,

Faded and underfed

Dragged up every now and again

As bread and water to those who knew you.

There are no scars where you

Were snatched through to the

Hereafter;

Just jagged wounds, still steady bleeding.

Your seat at our table

Is still warm and waiting,

As though you stepped out for a moment

And will come through if we wait awhile.

Perhaps for you, our forever boy,

It has been an age,

or perhaps time paused to collect itself,

It, too, lamenting the

Beautifully brief soul that Death took.

For us the moment is our collective breath

Held tight,

Waiting for your return.

The Silence and The Stillness

I hear your laughter—

It drifts through the expanse of a crowded room:

Jovial. Sincere. Mirthful.

When it caresses the ear—with permission, of course—

The listener smiles. They can’t help it.

You are well-liked, but flavorless.

.

When I hear you laugh

I grit my teeth

And pop my ears.

.

Your laughter is like the toothpaste you let harden in the sink

Brittle and grotesque.

It is the story I repeat over and again

While a faint light on the phone I bought you

Begs for your attention

And you graciously give it.

.

It is the gasp you make when you remember

Something you swore you wouldn’t forget:

To buy eggs, to make that phone call, to change that light,

Me.

.

It is like the hot lash of branches on my shins

One after the other

As I stalk alone through the woods you promised we would explore

But only as an asterisk after the complaint you made

About the irritating small things I want to do

With you; that asterisk coming after the complaint you made

About the expensive big places

That you will never take me to. 

In your laughter I hear the smallness of your voice

When I ask for your time

And you pinch for me crumbs

Complaining that I have enough of you already.

.

Your laughter is the pain in my chest and the heat in my throat

As I wonder at the way your smile never reaches your eyes.

As I marvel at the brilliance of it for other people

How it dims ever so slightly

At the sight of me.

It is the rolling of your eyes

When you think I am not looking,

And the silence and the stillness

When your mother says I am not good enough for you,

As though the weight of helping build

The magnificent, hollow construction of you

Isn’t worthy of an honorable mention.

.

Across the expanse of the crowded room I see you

Wearing the shirt your mother bought you

Because the one I bought was too fancy

And much like me, too much for you.

Behind you I see the door that I’ve left open

Considering time and again

How I long to go through

But then?

.

So I hold myself back,

And I let my disappointment sweep over you

Like the ice that has formed between us,

And I let myself smile 

At the frown your mouth makes

Knowing you have felt something—anything—

And it is just for me.

.

Still. This lying laugh makes me sick.

I want to call Ms. Giovanni and tell her what you’ve done. 

Tell her I understand her.

Despair to her that you won’t share the lie of you 

With me.

.

“He’s so wonderful,” one of your fans gushes.

I smile at her, so dazzling my countenance will 

Never right itself.

“He really is,” I reply. 

Breadcrumbs


Where do I place the love for you
Now that you are gone?
Perhaps I will pluck it from my chest
Still pulsating, quick and heavy
And bury it near your favorite tree?

Perhaps it will break down and
follow you
And lead me from here to where you are
Like a trail of breadcrumbs
Guiding me to the only home I’ve known?

Perhaps it will wither and waste and turn to bitter ash?
Will it shrivel and grow cold and brittle
And flake away, rotten and unused?

Maybe I can give it away?
To someone who won’t
Really need it, who won’t
use it as often?
Who will let it stretch and grow thin
And drape about them like an ill-fitting suit?

I will tuck it with the memories of you
And all the things about you that
I am sworn to keep.
My love was yours.
And it belongs with you.
And perhaps one day I will find you
And give you back what was yours,
Still gleaming and familiar and worn.

782 Argonne Drive

Mid century modern, green shutters,

Original flooring in all the baths. Eat in kitchen and a yard you can easily manage.

Cold breakfasts there, where the kitchen table used to wait. A half cup of orange juice, unbuttered toast and a grapefruit.

Eyes just missing each other over the morning paper, the stiff lilt of songs remade floating from the kitchen radio.

After dinner drinks there in the parlor. Knitting and crocheting and long silences, interrupted by small sighs and wanton glances out the window. Perhaps company would come. They did not come unannounced. How improper.

Perfect patio for summer barbecues. Grease blistered scalps covered by scarves, boiling bodies huddled together under the awning to escape the sun.

Christmas cards drawn up and divided. His and hers. Her family. His family. The living room is perfect for the separate living; the dining room was created for cleaving and tongues sharpened by the after dinner whiskey will do the job nicely.

The windows throughout let enough of the light in though. There are moments that are stifling, that rob you of your breath and you ask if this is all. If your little life will fit into this white house with its green shutters and the basement that is big enough for all your small secrets.

That door is the perfect size to never walk out of. To walk right up to, bag gripped in your palm, the other with the keys to the car you didn’t learn to drive. You would walk through that door. You would.

But there is laundry and dinner and hair and sewing and it can be warm sometimes. And you have known cold.

It is enough, though, to get to the door. Perhaps the next will walk through.

The house sells for a profit, but you will never see it. You are in the ground then, still warm but cooling. The house is let but never again owned. The oak door—original to the house— is swollen shut. No one ever gets through.

The Hours

Where do all our hours go?

The time that burns holes in our pockets:

Precious minutes we waste getting into

The hours, getting

Through them, leaping

Past them—

And then they brush by us

Without so much as a goodbye.

They are so unlike all things known,

Far too quick,

And away one behind the other in a

Seamless blur,

Here and not here; so close we can

Taste it

So far they are unwrinkled and unblemished

And sweetly sour.

In the end will we get them back still warm?

Not every hour—

Not

The ugly wretched rotten ones;

Those rancid things can be collected

And buried deep together.

But I would like a bouquet of the

Short Blissful Hours

The roots of finiteness cut from them.

In the end I wish to be swaddled by them

The hours that were gracious enough

To lie to me about their leaving;

The ones that stained my lips,

Left marks on me and in me–

Those that visit once in awhile.

I want those again

An endless loop of being

Rocking me into the slumber of eternal hours

Or the deep and abiding nothing.

gone from her now

They once held many secrets and loves and desires and hopes, her eyes.

The soul within them intoxicating and eternal.

The effervescent luminescence baptized like blessed rays from the lifted veil.

It dazzled, its mirthful depths held oceans and multitudes—a universe entire.

But then he gasped his last and the light dimmed and flickered and at last

Was out.

She remains.

But she is only remains.

The universe within her out in an instant.

Soul darkened, gasping and aching with the anchor of too many tomorrows and

too few yesterdays.

The light and her Light are beyond the blackened veil.

Every beautiful precious living thing

borne away,

Gone from her now.

Everything I Have Never Known

Ruby (but they say hooker red) cloak and sanguine lips (slut); wash and go coils moisturized (nappy); chin high (uppity); eyes focused and direct (bitch). They are brown and for a long time you will want any other color.

Blue perhaps.

79 percent of the world’s population has brown eyes. Earthen eyes. Golden honey when illuminated by sun. Only when illuminated are they worth mentioning. They are godlike in their golden illumined splendor. Out of the sun they are forgettable. In a brown face they are dangerous, particularly when they pierce directly.

Speak carefully and confidently (show off). Work ethically and passionately (asshole).

Spend more money than you will ever repay (fool) and live with the crushing grief of your mistake.

Lose your religion like change in the gutter. Miss it, ashamedly, like an absentee father who you only ever wanted to please and could he (please please please) at least show up for your birthday?

Watch your dreams from the rotted end of a forgotten dock; you could close your eyes and put a toe in but you know the dock will crumble and you can’t swim. You took lessons but they didn’t take (failure).

Wear the ruby because it makes you feel good. They will call you slut. Your chin will unsettle them—who are you to move about, with nary a dream met, in complete chaotic splendor?

You will unnerve them. Unmake them. You must do this, or else be unmade.

You will be lonely and often, alone.

You must not yield for them. Should you yield you will lose the light and you will die. You will die anyway, but without the light—though fleeting—you will die an age before you draw your final breath.

Do not stop. You will see the bodies and bones of everyone you ever were amidst the ruins of everything you never knew.

You will be afraid to look upon the visage of past despair.

Climb over.

Beneath.

Through.

Crush them if you must. The voices in your head will never silence, the grip on your throat will never loosen. Use the fire of the hatred that laps at your heels to light your way, but keep moving.

Tulips in the Snow

In early spring you clipped me,

still blooming.

You tore me by my roots,

then rent me until raw and vulnerable

I stooped before your

Vengeful eye.

You said I was too beautiful,

A mere thing surrounded

by beautiful things.

Before you I grew.

Should you leave I would yet grow.

So you clipped me.

Beneath your oppressively absent eye

I withered

grew dim.

I would never grow again.

Never know home again.

Everywhere I was was damned,

And you.

You beheld a being so beautiful

You wanted to watch it die

And become a thing less beautiful.

You yourself could not create beauty—

A beautifully damned nothing, then.

In the frost

Away from you

Unnatural to me

I sought the light.

A tulip in snow is an unnatural thing.

But a tulip in the dark

Is nothing.

I am not nothing.

Unnatural now, perhaps,

But I am.