Bitter-fixed. The ones she helped damage aren’t crying for her.
Bitter-fixed. Depression and shame and fear fuel hate. To bury. To spit.
Bitter-fixed. Stabbing her finger into our chests to distort accountability.
The facts are:
she had a hand in most of what broke
1979, the brown Plymouth about to crash, her belly swollen and ready.
She sleeps as the first husband spends
her prenatal care on Pabst again,
and as the car flips into the ditch maybe
she was dreaming of a child, of how she was
going to feed her, how she would
hold her, what would her temperament be?
Will he love her?
The facts are:
she felt sorry for him;
she did not know how to love herself
–so young in a woman’s body;
her tenderness shrinking
as she sold her things to feed her children,
her tenderness hardening
as she cooked noodles and watered down
the milk, picking up beer cans and baby bottles.
And the facts are:
she is cold and hard because she is lonely
for herself, but
her heart will break with you
so you’re not alone;
her voice changes when you really need her,
because that’s how she loves.
In the dark polaroids of ‘65
she beams in every one.
“Cake” written beneath the scenes.
“Your mother was so sweet,” grandma used to say.
I look at her shiny apple cheeks, face tilted up—
that look in a child’s eye that reveals their temperament,
hers a rare sweetness my younger sister inherited.
I keep a photo of that young face
in my dresser drawer to remind myself
to love her, to remind myself that it wasn’t
her fault to hate me
when I had needed her, because
it wasn’t me she hated.
Looking at her last night, my throat hurt because I missed her.
And looking at her photo when I got home, my throat hurt
because maybe her pain is bigger than mine.
Her face last night, deeply lined and gray.
The apples of her cheeks a striated map of wear.
She hasn’t laughed much since Spring.
I called her this morning
fingering over my scars in the sunlight on the couch, telling her
in my own way that I am ok, that I love her,
that she is strong and life…life…is responsible…not us.
They said if she had been awake she probably wouldn’t have survived that crash.
And now she sleeps, breaking her own heart, because she did.