Mother; & Shadow, Shadow

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016


At the army hospital, whose nipple
did they put in my mouth after I
slid out and through her? That first
night and the rest that came after,

whose arms received the wrapped
bundle of me (in those days before
Pampers or vinyl diaper covers),
that soon I must have soaked

with my own effluvia? I know
they never were farther apart
or closer than that day; later,
through the winding years, one

always in the next room,
or at most a floor below
in the split-level bungalow
we shared. To this day,

what they knew suspends
like a gauzy drape above my head,
around my shoulders as I sift
in my own rooms, trying to write

again toward their secrets: older
and younger, sisters yoked by that
most domestic space of the womb
and what issues from it.

In what way and what did it signify
how each in turn or at the same time
was loved by my father? —for he
is the other shadow in this

unfinished tale. Two being dead,
only one of them perhaps could put
my questions to rest—but she sits
in the house of her diminishing

faculties, unconscious
of the echolalia that’s crept
into her speech… In a moment
I’ll put these threads aside,

as the hour grows late. But never
do they leave me completely alone—
at table, at the stove, attending
to my work or my own

housekeeping, I’ll feel the fierce
press of their shadows in the old
ways: triumvirate to all I do,
dreaming, sleeping, waking.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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