Over Skype, I try to document my mother’s
bald-shaved youth—she has a surplus in truths,
and science has proven what it had to prove:
every helicopter-screech I dreamed of was my mother’s first.
Rippling my dumb hand, I wake up in childhood’s crypt,
where prayer is keyless as a foreign laugh overheard
and on the Masjid’s cobalt globe a ghost … an angel?
No, no … who am I kidding. When I say God,
what I mean is: I can barely stand to look
at my mother’s face. So, what if I’ve never seen
what she’s seen. I took the shape of her two hundred
and six bones—I did not choose her eyes. Did not
choose to masticate the ash of witness,
her crooked smile disclosing a swarm of flies,
Yes, missiles hailed there, named after ancient gods.
Hera—a word of disputed root—maybe from Erate,
beloved. And because my beloved is not a person
but a place in a headline I point to and avert my gaze,
I can now ask: would I have given up my mother for an alyssum
instead of asylum? Or one glass of water that did not
contain war? Her wound isn’t mine, yet what I needed most
was our roof to collapse on her like earth around stones.
Rain, the hard absence of skin. The silence of it—
no gust in my goddess. No artificial wind.
The light retreats and is generous again.
No you to speak of, anywhere—neither in vicinity nor distance,
so I look at the blue water, the snowy egret, the lace of its feathers
shaking in the wind, the lake—no, I am lying.
There are no egrets here, no water. Most of the time,
my mind gnaws on such ridiculous fictions.
My phone notes littered with lines like Beauty will not save you.
Or: mouthwash, yogurt, cilantro.
A hummingbird zips past me, its luminescent plumage
disturbing my vision like a tiny dorsal fin.
But what I want does not appear. Instead, I find the redwoods and pines,
figs that have fallen and burst open on the pavement,
announcing that sickly sweet smell,
the sweetness of grief, my prayer for what is gone.
You are so dramatic, I say to the reflection on my phone,
then order the collected novels of Jean Rhys.
She, too, was humiliated by her body, that it wanted
such stupid, simple things: food and cherry wine, to touch someone.
On my daily walk, I steal Meyer lemons from my neighbors’ yard,
a small pomegranate. Instead of eating them,
I observe their casual rot on the kitchen counter,
this theatre of good things turning into something else.