Mother, I have destroyed you. Forgive me as I am
destroyed. The submarine of you, mother, has, underwater,
shipped me off, has fired on me, is nuclear. Mother,
the gold tooth of me is stolen, the frayed cord of me
is broken, the scored record of me is frozen, the scratched
recording of me is full. Fire on my self pulled from
a pile of the wreckage, fire on my plumage-self
planned in advance. And decorated for the homecoming
and sheltered by the colors and the blending in with ending
and the touch of a Cyclops to the backs of wool. Clinging
to the belly of the sheep, I come home. Mother, my blood
is the blood sum of you and my father. I have no choice. I need
your rules. And now the tides come in and, like driftwood, I
drift, and like summits I rest and like the Eucharist I am blessed,
and like the lost reflection I am lit from below by what
appears to be light. I say my name and it ignites. I say my name
and it tires like a rower on a stolen ship or lags like
a haggard sail. I lost my veil, I lost my bed, I lost what I thought
had been said to you to make you understand. You, the shape
eating waterfowl with bare hands. Mother, your grand chandelier
of lies has so many eyes it sees like a spider or a fly in every
direction; it decides, goes for miles. What opens before you
is my smile. Empty as a room. Empty as a foot. Empty as a ruse.
Empty as a lung. Empty as a tongue that has not said. Empty
as a vein that has not bled. What am I, mother, but the undead
walking the way you want me to walk, the way you want me to
talk, up from the grave at your command. The zombie I am, covered
in soot. Soon I swoon and faint and fall. But that is not all. I am
the spoon you cook. I am the food you concoct. I am the line
you lost with the hook at the end, meant to sink into a mouth.
My cheek is set, my wretch is good, I am not what wooed you. I am
no good. This I know. I had to sew myself shut. For years, I was
the rut in the good old road. Do not trust the old, do not trust
the new, there is nothing to do and nothing can be done.
The two were one, now they are two. I was born, I was new,
then I spoke, I was no good, I was me, I had flaws countless and
contagious as disease, not the least of which grew. I was me, I was
mine, I was not yours. I could not be you. Mother, you took from me
the drought and gave it meaning, you smacked the pout right off
my feeling, you kept stars lit on the ceiling so you could navigate
out from my room. It was noon when the sun set in you. I felt
the earth cool. I felt the fires lit so those of us who survived
could go on living. I felt the beasts arrive when night was confirmed.
You killed us off. You felt you’d earned it, the right to make us
into what fears and what crouches and what grows cold. I could not
grow older. I could not mature. I was sure there was nothing
left. What I felt in the end was the blow of yours
sent across the miles to find me where I lay spent
and desert-like in the heat. Keep me here. I serve
your needs. The edges of me, mother. I cannot be
until you let me recover. I cannot run to the subset
of another. You are too wise, you know what the constant light
means, you know what grows where and how to twist it
when the darkness meets it so that it can moss over and meld
into a growth that will melt it down. You fungi plus silk,
the lurch of me is trying to unlearn all the confusions of you.
Mother, mother, quite contrary, how does your deadliness
grow? With a tooth and a rack and a craw and a sack
and all the daughters caught in their rows.
Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Militello. “The Pact” was originally published in American Poetry Review. Used with permission of the author.
Jennifer Militello is the author of A Camouflage of Specimens (Tupelo Press, 2016), Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), and Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009), winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award.
Date Published: 2018-10-03
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/pact-0