Dear Migraine,

Gail Mazur
You're the shadow shadow lurking in me
and the lunatic light waiting in that shadow.
 
Ghostwriter of my half-life, intention's ambush 
I can't prepare for, ruthless whammy 
 
you have me ogling a blinding sun, 
my right eye naked even with both lids closed—
 
glowering sun, unerring navigator 
around this darkened room, you're my laser probe, 
 
I'm your unwilling wavelength, 
I can never transcend your modus operandi,
 
I've given up trying to outsmart you,
and the new thinking says I didn't invent you—
 
whatever you were to me I've outgrown,
I don't need you, but you're tenacity embodied,
 
tightening my skull, my temple, like plastic wrap. 
Many times, I've traveled to a dry climate
 
that wouldn't pander to you, as if the great map
of America's deserts held the key to a pain-free future, 
 
but you were an encroaching line in the sand, 
then you were the sand.  We've spent the best years
 
of my life intertwined: wherever I land 
you entrap me in the unraveled faces
 
of panhandlers, their features my features—
you, little death I won't stop for, little death 
 
luring me across your footbridge to the other side, 
oblivion's anodyne. Soon—I can't know where or when—
 
we'll dance ache to ache again on my life's fragments,
one part abandoned, the other abundance—

More by Gail Mazur

Evening

Sometimes she's Confucian-- 
resolute in privation. . . .

Each day, more immobile, 
hip not mending, legs swollen;

still she carries her grief 
with a hard steadiness.

Twelve years uncompanioned, 
there's no point longing for

what can't return. This morning, 
she tells me, she found a robin

hunched in the damp dirt 
by the blossoming white azalea.

Still there at noon-- 
she went out in the yard

with her 4-pronged metal cane-- 
it appeared to be dying.

Tonight, when she looked again, 
the bird had disappeared and

in its place, under the bush, 
was a tiny egg-- 

"Beautiful robin's-egg blue"-- 
she carried carefully indoors.

"Are you keeping it warm?" 
I ask--what am I thinking?-- 

And she: "Gail, I don't want
a bird, I want a blue egg."

Unveiling, Wakefield

I say to the named granite stone, to the brown grass,
to the dead chrysanthemums, Mother, I still have a
body, what else could receive my mind’s transmissions,
its dots and dashes of pain?
I expect and get no answer,
no loamy scent of her coral geraniums. She who is now
immaterial, for better or worse, no longer needs to speak
for me to hear, as in a continuous loop, classic messages
of wisdom, love and fury. MAKE! DO! a note on our fridge
commanded. Here I am making, unmaking, doing, undoing.

Hall Mirror

Federal style, two small chips
in the gilt frame, found at a flea market
in the Eisenhower ’50s.

19th century American lovingly refinished,
loving gift of my mother:
It’s too good for you, so take care of it!

Some winter mornings here
the taut lit face of Ethel Rosenberg, 
or the ecstatic face of Blake,

punim of my 6-year-old grandmother,
arriving stunned and mute from Vilna,
her big sister Lena waiting,

who knew what was at stake.

Oh my fierce mother, sanding away
at the kitchen table protected by newspapers,
The Herald, The Forward, The Traveler,

her little brush, her jar of paste
preserving and inventing the past—
for what?

For me.

For today, half-conscious glimpse of myself
on my way out for a walk in February snow,
with a friend, or alone,

my blue woolen hat, my mirror smile…

Related Poems

Dear Lonely Animal,

I'm writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean, 
the farthest away place from anything else.

There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I've never seen except the bananas.

All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if 
they take turns who's first like carrying 

the flag in school. Carrying the flag 
way out in front and the others 
following along behind in two long lines, 

pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow 
from 4am onward. They're still crowing right now 
and it's almost noon here on the island.

Noon stares back no matter where you are.  
Today I'm going to hike to the extinct volcano 
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday 

a gust almost blew me inside. I heard 
that the black widows live inside the volcano 
far down below in the high grasses that you can't 

see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you 
that this morning the bells rang and I 
followed them and at the source of the bells, 

there I found so many animals 
all gathered together in a room 
with carved wooden statues

and wooden benches and low wooden slats 
for kneeling. And the animals were there 
singing together, all their voices singing, 

with big strong voices rising from even 
the filthiest animals. I mean, I've seen animals 
come together and sing before, except in 

high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass 
are pieced together into stories. Some days 
I want to sing with them.

I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can't sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens

when the animals stop singing.  
And then I think of all the medications 
and their side effects that are advertised 

between the pieces of news. And then I think 
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,

and all the money they spent to buy 
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money 
buys the news, and what news 

creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can't sing anymore, Lonely Animal.  

I can't sing with the other animals. Because it's 
hard to know what an animal will do when it 
stops singing. It's complicated, you know, it's just 

complicated—