Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview


Last night my brother called.
We made promises.
Don’t leave me alone
with our mother while she’s dying.
Promise me you won’t be
her or her mother:
blue light single women,
amber oil on bulbs,
sleeping in ashes
and urine and nine dogs
to replace her living
children. I do.

I remember when I would
pray. I would talk to the belly
I came from, murmur to it like it was
a demigod, rest my cheek on its sag
and C-shaped scar.

I remember us singing each other to sleep.

I can dream what not to be:
blue notes, don’t smoke in bed,
anti-anxiety meds,
baskets of paper, piles
of clothes, death by rebirth.

Use water to cleanse, destroy.

I still remember who
she was:
energy crystals, books:
books for interpreting
The Bible. Books for
interpreting numbers.
The Bible. Tarot cards.
The Bible. Stages.
She was light and dazzle—
her name in jumbo letters.

She died in water,
leaving her sinner-self
behind. All her stories,
loves, lovers, the women, to drown
in baptism. She rose, still broken,
to live in wait, to die eventually.

The truth is,
we won’t find her—her children—instead,
we guess. Which will win,
the depression or the diabetes?

Imagine we find her in
melted ice cream.

The truth:
we don’t find her.
She sleeps, burns the house down.
Charred puppy bones.
she falls.
The puppies defecate,
copulate, die buried in piles:
shawls, estate finds, boutique-y
African garb.

The truth:
we, her children, don’t talk
the right way. There’s so much poison in guilt.
Her assistant finds her.
the security guard
who prays with her.
He’s the last man to touch her
hands in love.

I don’t remember the last time
we prayed together, but
my heart wants to be faithful.

I love to touch her hands,
the yellow curve where
she holds her cigarettes.
I remember her stories. I’ll build
a house of old stories, no longer loves,
tales for my nieces. My mother can live with me
when my brothers leave me to wash her
softest parts, hear her final
secrets, watch her next rebirth.   

return to top