Mother Water Ash

Mother gone to ash    river gone to drowned
I don’t live here anymore as my friends remind

Now I walk the edge of the Grand Central Parkway
Flushing Meadows Park    World’s Fair gone dark

what is ashed and drowned     what is abandoned
Mother gone    drowned in her body the night

she died alone in New Orleans    ashed her cigarette
then left us    did I go dark when the N train lost power

on my way home    while the burning threaded through
my baby’s hair    city doused in ash impossible

to keep the outside out     River Road beside my parents’ house
leads to Cancer Alley    Mother gone but once with her

I drove through the drowned city    two months after
the storm    yellowed grass   houses gone    the road

a slur of empty    is it any wonder I’ve followed her advice
to subtract myself    Good daughter always    till I’m not

did I go dark when she left me     when will my daughters
while my mother’s mouth is all slick black feathers  

Copyright © 2023 by Nicole Cooley. This poem was first printed in Blackbird, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Spring 2023). Used with the permission of the author.