1979

 

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,

dropping herself

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.

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