My Mother Defends Her Territory
On the red plastic placemat,
My mother puts down the vocabulary cards to focus on me.
Summer is a heavy season on her face,
& I sit before her, impudent as a cheese curl,
My mouth in need of a cleaning.
In the whorl & vacillating shadow of the ceiling fan,
Her anger transforms, & her face is suddenly an owl’s.
I have never seen her like this,
Neither correcting nor inquisitive but wreathed in quietude,
Her brow beclouding my horoscope.
From the den, I hear them coming, the forest trees,
Clopping down behind me, root bed by root bed.
I look around and realize that I am another sort of captive.
I fear what is to come, but my face cannot resist investigating her unfamiliar gaze.
These yellow-planet eyes have never doted on a daughter.
Am I orphan or parasite?
I am trespasser.
Her head tilts to the side, certain of its capabilities.
The heft of her instinct throttles me.
I feel my nose fill with gnats, & mice, cheeks clicking, gather at my feet.
This is not my mother.
She is not wounded.
She is indifferent to my words.
No, this is not her, though I know in my neck
That she is a creature who has designs for me.
She levitates &, with her talons flexed,
Pinches my arms worse than a hand hushing children in church pews.
We take flight. No kitchen door blocks us. No father sits on the carport.
No cat paces, waiting for food to land in his aluminum circle.
No, this is not my country.
We coast over obsidian roof & the whole-note scruff of pinecones
Until her head defeathers, becoming a cloud.
Her breath heaves a thunderstorm,
& my body fizzles with her lightning.
I break from her heavens like rain.
My particles fall & mix with those of other transgressors.
The air is cold & lightless.
This is motherlessness.
This is wordlessness.
The fall is never-ending,
& the doves among us know this
& cry never-endingly.
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