Poetry

In Which I Compare My Children to the Apocalypse on a Friday Night

My daughter tells me she is lighting a cigarette in Category 2 winds, she tells me that the water is

rising but she will not leave her home, she is listening to Morrisey, she is listening to Hendrix,

she is smoking on the deck while her boyfriend offers her fresh baked chicken, processed potato

skins, documentaries on Netflix about drownings and electrical outages that happened years ago.

Her sister survived last year’s hurricane in Florida where I had an out of body experience, two

days in the car with my chain smoking friend and her haunted cell phone that lit up at every mile

marker ending in the number three and I rose above the mannequin at the corner of Eucalyptus

and Cowboy Way, her oversized Barbie face and sun-stripped hair seducing me to buy home-

grown tomatoes, above the car that no longer shifted to reverse, forcing us forward without rear

brakes for 500 miles, above Boris the strawberry-eating pig that my grandson’s other

grandmother could not bear to slaughter. All this to say that my girl children should be dead but

they are not, they are lightning trapped in bones, they will never lie down in still waters, they

will walk from rooms, they will stand in front of boarded windows without flinching or blinking,

they will lift the pool cage from its roots, they will bury me in a shallow grave and tell stories of

their childhoods where I am a witch in mother’s clothing, they will bring out the Ouija board

from beneath the bed, they will join hands and summon me back to the shores of the living.

Hungover Sonnet: Valentine’s Day

It started with $4 martinis,

with the frozen ocean bringing you home,

with a starved realization that Wednesday

is good as any to swaddle my nerve

endings with whiskey, morning will arrive

in my cold mouth one way or another,

it started with the ninth funeral mass,

another baby who slept and awoke

outside his body so new that the skull

bones had not linked and locked, with a phone call,

my son’s voices returned, living shadows

with copper bones, he tells me talk louder,

with vodka in the second glass, April

snowstorm, with hawks that could easily spot

nestling rabbits against the white-wrapped dirt,

with my car dead on the highway as if

to say, this is journey’s ends, with blood salt,

with hibiscus gin in the third glass, with

a swelling in my uterus, the way

I divided once a month into three

better women, the butcher, the baker,

the candlestick maker, a trail of nail

clippings that even the hamster would not

swallow, with the muddy Mississippi

crawling onto dry ground, circumventing

sand bags, slate, steel, it started with the fourth

glass, with honey mescal and lime, waiting

for you to pull the carpet from its roots.

 

Disguise the dust with particle board, crack

the eggs, boil the soup, leave the key behind.

Christmas Eve

Sodden cardboard boxes bob up from basement waters like unlucky tourists in life

preservers, murky jars of summer

squash, pickled okra, my daughters first grade spelling tests, gold stars long chewed

for rodents’ nests, their ancestors

here among the dead and more rain is on its way. The highway is parched, I’m sure

of it, the weather man draws sun

charts, folds droughts into cranes, I pack with rabbit bones and weighted dice, I cannot

wait for you to die, won’t watch

your heart expand, explode and take you out, the cigarettes and tequila of our youth claim

another good man. I discard unsigned

contracts, pressed flowers from every lover and funeral, they all look the same, in life

and death, I dream of open road, coyote

circles, of standing on the desert moon, I travel north in search of ice, of landscapes

where nothing floats or disappoints.

Sudden tunnels split open mountains, reveal leaking vials of plague, veins of quick-

silver, unburied goblin kings, Joni

Mitchell says she lost her best lover and I sing her saddest Christmas song into old-earth

rock where only worms can hear me.

© 2020 by Beth Gordon.