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.