As a Mother
When you cried out in the night,
weak and low,
in the voice that only I can hear,
you tensed the string
and flew me like a kite
upon the urgent wind.
I am yours.
It starts with comparison.
I pull the measuring tape taut,
square it off, count the hashes.
Pencil the number on a crumpled receipt
and chant the incantation:
Money back within thirty days.
Discrepancy makes me a sorcerer’s apprentice
multiplying not brooms, but yardsticks.
All things transmogrify
in service of appraisal:
The floor length mirror.
The business card.
The photographs of Rome.
The published byline.
The summer cabin.
Trust fund disbursement.
A baby’s push up.
The marathon stamina.
The youthful skin.
The influential family name.
The bullish trade.
The glowing skyline.
The time, the time, the time.
It is tiresome to carry the scales of justice
door to door.
To feel a thing blindly, to evaluate its heft
by the space it occupies
and the space it does not.
My arm shakes, the muscles fail,
and in reluctant setting down,
the graceless letting go,
amid the shards of expectation
I inherit the wealth I am due:
I am enough.
I’m on the phone with the sixth nurse, newly discharged.
The past weeks witnessed frantic dispatches for aid via email and helpline,
while the whoosh and suck of the electric pump
Coaxes Canaan’s bounty from my damaged right breast.
My son lays in his father’s arms,
And greedily receives sustenance that my body cannot provide.
Our circle is broken, and I mourn the unnatural rift in this natural process.
Each greeting begins: “Congratulations, momma!”
and ends with, “…enjoy your precious babe,”
and my body’s screams for healing
Drown in twee wishes and sentiment.
Who advocates for the vessel
once she bears her cargo into a new world?
Who mends her battered hull while the sun shines
on the shiny, pink thing, squalling like the storm
they weathered together on the open sea?
I, and I alone, trace the lines of the stitch
That binds me to myself
looking to fix severed connections
Like a ranch hand mends a Texas fence.
I received your message:
Mothers are warriors, heroes, saints
Aloft on a pedestal of words,
A pedestal erected in lieu
of the support withheld.
I am the means to an end.
Where did you learn to love, and how? Tell me, and I will trace your path Back through the thistled thicket and gnarled trees, Along the shallow brook of mossy stones and puckish caddis flies To the clearing where you began. Did the moon beckon with misty fingertips, or were you dropped down as prey for a prowling pack, Plump and squirming, an offering to the gods? Where did you learn to love, and how? Tell me, and I will map the lines Of heart and head, of sun and fate, To read the myth of you inscribed in folds of skin. Your palms outstretched, I light the lamp and hold it high So your right foot sees where the left has been.
The vow you made years ago
in the safety of your heart
was to launch your own ship onto a rocky reef,
to keep the treasure in the hold
from the hands of a watery god.
You were weather-worn, soaked in sea brine,
skin cracking from the salt spray
You threw the bowlines,
dragging the anchor of your own wounds
deep along the ocean floor–
Prayers shouted to the gulls
and all else who would hear.
I am thirty four now,
awaking on an unknown shore,
battered, bruised, sun-blind from sudden light.
I cannot see you, but I sense you are there.
You left me! I scream,
eyes wet with rage.
My fists drum a frenzied beat
against the trunks and mussel shells.
I stumble through bracken,
counting the leaves as if they are sins.
The sharp edges slice cloth from skin
and skin from flesh.
I draw a map from scar to scar
and sing the bitter refrain:
You left me!
The forest cracks open, a cocoon of green.
I find you, smiling.
You are a child, pink and glowing,
not yet met with time’s erosion.
I shout, raw and ragged ー You left me!
You clasp my hand with tiny fingers,
You were the treasure.
You were the boat.
And you were the storm.
My child, how could I leave you
when you are the destination?