Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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My Mother as Harp Seal, as Sacristan
1863: Wissembourg, France

In memory, she’s still floating in the salted
bath, warmth gone from the gritty water
I stir with my finger, her hair loose, adrift
over her body. White and quivering. Ask her
why she’s sad again, she slides, goes under,
blows bubbles. With only her mouth and nose
out of the water, she says, your brother,
dead baby, you remind me, you have
his name. This I know for true: like a clump
of snow from a shaken branch, he fell
from her belly. In memory, spots of wet

on the floor. We had knelt that morning
to give daisies and asters, to kiss the feet
of the pale, poor eggshell man who hung
on the church wall, his weight webbing
cracks through the plaster. Ask her, may we
bring a blanket for him? On my bureau,
I still have a thumb of blistered wax, a string
of dead beetles. On my bureau, she’s arranging
the candle and rosary. One hundred times

I will myself to remember the blanket I promised;
one hundred times, I forget.  end  

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