I Write in the House of Her Narrative
Don’t ask me about my mother.
Don’t tell me to lean towards joy.
Would you tell a dog barking for bone,
a babe bawling for breast to be jubilant?
My mother was not. And so I am not.
She of the gilded mask and robe,
inscribed with molasses and tobacco. Here,
where sunlight is rationed, I’m the ugly ingrate.
When I pull on the pink slippers and shout:
Look, Ma. I can pirouette, she taps ash.
When I show her my first poem, she
upstages me with her own version.
Body from body. It’s just too fucking intimate.
My infant form faltered, crowned once,
drowned twice. Nearer now to my own line break,
I lean towards the volta. The mother still inserts herself
between couplets. A third foot.
We did our little dance.
I was not chosen. Such a blessing
the dead have no memories.
Editor’s note: This poem’s speaker recognizes how trauma can linger the way cigarette smoke stains everything around it, until the only freedom that seems possible is death.