Mother was like an onion–
her many layers gradually being peeled back–
causing the tears to come quicker.
Her history had not been known
but was still being discovered,
&, like the universe,
would never be all the way known.
Though we had never gone anywhere outside the U.S.,
I traveled through David’s lectures,
through the tastes & smells of unfamiliar foods,
the sounds of music, the sight of photos,
the touch of artifacts.
He didn’t take me around the world
but brought the world to me.
According to David,
God was either a figment of imagination
or an extraterrestrial with powers
more advanced than ours.
Caitlin was denim & lace,
I, satin & pearls,
but Mother was cut from a different cloth;
whatever it was had a high thread count.
Other women were nylon & polyester,
but she was like the finest Egyptian cotton,
her skin like the softest silk–
even the wool she pulled over my eyes
was vibrantly colored.
David believed Jesus was a great prophet,
that Jesus only believed He was God
because others had told Him so,
for hadn’t there been many Messiahs
before & since?
Perhaps Jesus had simply been better
at branding himself.
Beach toys like islands floating belly-up
in dissipating lavender bubbles,
littered with orange string
pulled from ratty washcloths;
clumps of toilet paper like flotsam,
cloudy, with a chance of clogging,
vaguely resembling oysters,
contaminate the soapy water.
Wet floor, dirty bath, clean shower.
Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 501
Like the shadow of the blind,
she was with me 90 days
without my knowing—
the closest thing to God some people would
I was her second set of footprints,
for it was I
who carried her.
She didn’t know if her daughter understood all the words,
but she read them anyway.
She didn’t know if her daughter would remember
all those early trips to the park & the beach
& every other space that screamed barefoot fun,
but she took her anyway.
She didn’t know if her daughter always heard her say,
“I love you,” after she’d fallen asleep to a lullaby,
but she said it anyway.
For it was a mom’s instinct
to do good by & for their children,
not always knowing
the good it did.
“Breast is best,” they said,
but the best could not express itself.
She pumped herself sore,
for she feared for her child’s I.Q.,
& everything they said her magic milk
was supposed to do.
He’d never read to me Mother Goose
or Dr. Seuss,
but the Dead Poets,
& the works of a particular student of his–
who fancied herself a poetess.
We’d never seen puppets teaching shapes & colors
but musicals as bright as candy corn.
For our family tree was such that
if there were older generations left,
I could not see them through the leaves at the top—
where cobwebs had netted them together
through the shadows my mother had placed there.
The graven image of Moroni topped
Mormon temples like a wedding cake,
the interior of which were supposed to be like the
Celestial Kingdom of Heaven on Earth,
but my dream heaven was high on a mountaintop
where snowflakes fell in Spirograph-like creations,
or riding an elephant on a beach,
the sun at our backs,
or deep in the bayou under the Spanish moss
where the crawdads sang—
anywhere in nature,
where the words of the poets
were painted on the sky.
They all spoke on the Law of Chastity,
& you would think there was only one law to break
but to them,
breaking this law led to every other sin—
abortion, poverty, & eternal damnation.
The idea that God had once been
as we once were,
that He had been dust imbued
with the breath of life–
an inhabitant of another earth–
I wanted Him to have always been–
The Dashing Dot & the Dotty Dash
When Dewey Decimal met Frances Fraction,
he was turned off by her getting mixed up with integers,
even though she was often half a woman
(sometimes even a third or a quarter),
even as she was turned off by his referencing
of word collections as numbers.
Then, during an evening constitutional,
while walking on opposite sides of the street,
they were accosted by Samuel F. B. Morse,
who robbed Dew of his dot,
& Fran, her dash,
proclaiming that it was for “The Greater Good.”
It was only through this violation of their middle parts
(& the regeneration thereof),
that Dew & Fran were able to meet each other halfway
& coexist in the field of mathematics,
where they realized that they were mere forms
of the same numbers,
subject to conversion.
Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 500
When she went from a little black dress
to a big white dress
(or off-white, to keep it real),
she’d thought her life had been put on hold,
but she would come to learn
that love was not a barrier,
for the more,
Her life was in a rut,
so she began to turn left instead of right,
jumped up instead of forward,
writing vertically & counting backward.
She looked at people & away from things—
behind & beside them,
as well as directly.
Her perspective of the world changed
from changing her position in it,
& she learned that part of life was knowing
where to put the period &
where to put the ellipsis.
She’d traded in 3 jobs for 1,
the status of student for graduate,
the role of homemaker to bacon bringer.
She didn’t have it all,
but she had more than enough,
& what she didn’t have,
she gave to herself
in the stories she wrote.
Children were like little Christs,
for every spirit child of God the Father
that was brought into the world
brought their parents
one little footstep closer to heaven.
It was one thing to accept the Mormon gospel
that was regular interest–
but to duplicate oneself through procreation–
that was compound interest.
Caitlin would’ve been fascinated by the seance–
she, who’d always wanted to witness an exorcism,
but this, this was religious fanaticism,
or what she would call crucifixation–
an obsession with Jesus & His gruesome death.
David never tended our gardens,
& so everything grew a bit wild—
like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Our careworn home showed signs of neglect,
but there was a regality about it
that said something about the owners—
like those who held onto the Old South
on crumbling plantations.
We had the newest television
but watched movies from 40 or more years ago.
David had the newest computer
but wrote most of his notes with a fountain pen
on an old desk.
We lived in the South
but on our walls were pictures of New England’s
covered bridges in the fall.
We were the essence of existing
beyond the constraints of time & space.
Caitlin was the dove,
& the rest of us were like crows,
feasting on each other.
All through school,
I’d avoided offers of friendship–
counting the hours
like I numbered the stars
till I would be home with David again.