Tuesday, July 23, 2019

My Therapist Tells Me I Keep Dating My Mother by Destiny Birdsong

My Therapist Tells Me I Keep Dating My Mother

It’s the holidays, and the stretch of I-30 between
Little Rock and Texarkana is a vortex
Of clouds, conical spires, black veined concrete.
Your voice, cutting out over my headset,              
Is another kind of closing; I’m testing
Logarithms here: what questions can I string
Between mile markers to make you respond
With the breathless syllables of my name? When I imagine
Your mouth baptizing the collapse of bone at my hip,
Or the river below this bridge kissing
The rubber song of my tires, my throat closes.
The way home is a place where I remember
All the ways I cannot save myself. I want to ask if,
Like me, you tremble at the memory of your childhood home.
How the water would run rust-colored. The fenceless yards.
Section 8: an infinity of sameness. Did your mother
Ever have to tell you good people can live anywhere?
That a woman pregnant with anything will eat dirt
To prepare for the possibility of death?
Talk to me a little while longer; I’m growing  
Something the color of my mother’s skin in the ’80s.
Something like my relief when she’d return
From chopping our Christmas trees in the woods
Between our neighborhood and the city. She’d shake them
For birds’ nests and water moccasins on the car porch,
Then make stir-fry or taco salads and chocolate chip cookies,
And it was the only place I knew where everything
Could exist together and make sense, like her complexion
And mine. This was years before the husband,
Before the imprint of the bathroom cabinet’s knob
Under her eye like a wreath of purple thistle.
And my brother throwing tantrums at the airport,
And her breaking down, and me listing toward the gate
In shame as I did every year, to other mothers,
Other gods. I think my hands will always be stained                    
With her blood, and maybe there’s nothing I can do about that.
But the old days: The layered smell of peppers and pine.
Then one year, of rotting eggs from the heater
That almost killed us. What calm, before we knew
The language of storms—when there was no one
Ahead of us to brace for, and no one behind us
We couldn’t carry home, dress in light.

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