My mother has never called me by name,
she calls me beautiful
“How was your day, beautiful?”
“Beautiful, help clean up.”
And I believed her.
But then I turned on the tv,
flipped through the magazines,
saw the only thing deemed a “beauty”
to look nothing like me.
And as all the boys chased my friends,
with flirtatious words, fawning over fair faces,
mine received not one glance
not one word
and the silence erased my mother’s words
in a deafening, hollowing way.
But days like today,
moments like this,
I hear her loud and
“I see you, beautiful.”
“I love you, beautiful.”
And so thank you, blackout,
for the reminder,
sweet as honey,
warm as my mother’s voice,
that my black is beautiful.
(You all are beautiful to me.)
My son is not as enchanted with me
as he used to be. He’s begun to shrug my limbs off
snuff out my kisses, though I tell him
he’s only rubbing them in
I’m sauce-spattered as the kitchen
stove. I smell like stale wisdom and hard watermarks
My boot scuffs sound decades of stumble and somewhere
he must’ve noticed this, indecision
stuck between the teeth, self-doubt dirty dress hem
I’ve hoarded a certain memory from him
behind a stone he’s too small
to push over; a night of treason and injustice
where I caught his father
skipping bedtime story pages in haste
His dog-eared face, the stars sobbed
with my scalded boy, and all apologies
were slung from the balcony
He whimpered like a rusty swing set
as I lay in the next room, all glory and grace
a bruised-bitten tongue hid
I feigned sound and stately and maybe
this was the moment, the peak
where his tiny voice pleaded under the threshold
“Oh Mama, don’t marry Daddy. Marry me.”
I was pioneered, my summit laid claim to
He takes the view for granted now
And I squirrel away my stories for winters
like these to dangle before him.
See, boy. I never skipped a page.
–from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
2007 Neil Postman Award Honorable Mention
The housework, the factory work, the work
that takes from the body
and does not put back.
the white-collar work and the dirt
of its profits, the terrible politeness
of the office worker, the work that robs
the viscera to pay the cool
surfaces of the brain. All the work
that makes love difficult, brings on
sleep, drops the body off
at the liquor cabinet. All the work
that reaches the intestines and sprawls.
And the compulsive work after the work
is done, those unfillable spaces
of the Calvinist, or certain marriage beds.
From Work and Love