Pencil box, doll shelf, basket on the river—

Climbing out midstream, I myself deliver.

You never did give birth to me.

Birthing is discovery,

and our home a hiding.


Mommy, you have killed yourself.

You never gave yourself a chance,

and hated me for taking mine.

Behind the closed and twice-locked door,

your jealousy too cruel to ignore.


I minded as long as I could,

and I have the scars to prove it—

a buried hatchet breaking across my spine,

marking your white-trash fantasy

of Indian blood. Getting away


from you was the Indian-giver

of my life. I’d gain a state or two,

and your need would take me back,

dumb boomerang, debris returning

to litter the giving-up land left


after the abandoning sea.

Years when I wanted to leave

and you couldn’t dress yourself

or be nice, I drove away and away,

sobbing and screaming into rolled-up windows


before turning around to make dinner.

Before I diagnosed you, when the doctors

and your sister said you were just depressed,

you shut out everyone but me. Silence

was your command, my loyalty.


So we were alone together on Thanksgiving,

never giving thanks. Living with you

when I might have had a family of my own

is how I know I can withstand great pain, need little,

say nothing, and build up force along with fatigue.


Both came crashing down one day,

overturning the basket of my birth

in the rapids of the only love I have left to give you,

which is like my own love that is a mother’s for me—

love that wants nothing

love that wants nothing from me

love that wants only for me a gentle sandfall of shifting lens—

decrescendo, ritardando, rest.


Not the kind of rest where you lay down in peace.

But the kind where all previous notes sum to shifted sense,

minor becomes major, and the whole body blooms waiting for the next note

like a baby waiting warm by her mother, who is not yet jealous

of the desires digesting in her cells, not yet dreaming but growing.

Love that commands, if life doesn’t fit—change it, change it, change it.