Poetry | September 01, 1997


Always, it seems, it has been like this:

the phone cradled on my mother’s shoulder,

her too-loud boyfriend laugh. When she whispers

fork and spoon windchimes jangle on fish line

and from downslope comes the plaintive

mewl of the goats. (my mother’s secrets,

her spicy burnt perfume) I cannot

get small enough, creaking out the screen door,

past blackberries fat with sweetness,

to the salt block even starker in moonlight,

the newborn fumbling on her knees to get up.

Everything strange and elusive,

even the goats—who, when I try to hold them—

stubbornly muzzle away. My mother

shouting my name then, with a tone that means,

In God’s name what have you done.

When I get back she’s standing barreled

across the doorway, hair wondrous and frizzled,

turquoise earrings perfectly still. As I gaze up,

her eyes grip me with their shrillest blue.

Behind her my two-thousand-piece zebra puzzle

unsolved near the woodburning stove.

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