For my mother, when the shift is over.


        Morning of wet glass, of skyless vistas.
Her stomach falls back in, a window slamming

        shut, another expired epoch.
I am momentarily amnesic, my damp brain

        and its moving clouds; a slick, a saccade,
a flash of shifting light. She is in the room with me

        now, my life reel. Could I remember
this correctly or have I superimposed the firmament

        of her face, spliced with the mobile’s
dangling objects? She is welcoming me to the new

        world: a curl brushed behind the ear,
a gentle waking sequence, until I will be lifted.

        Down the hall, a hairdryer cooks
the webbed growth of dead days, the first news

        of the morning spirals in with its
bad stories: faulty wiring has arrived to cinder

        another timber home, the family
dreaming through the overcast oblivion, their flesh

        tones dimming. The door is kicked into
a splinter, but everything has already happened.

        It is useless cursing this muffled
mouth of mine, but what I lack in my language

        is a way of asking for what I need:
something like a hormone with its broken logic,

        its ancient mind refusing to submit
to the details. My body is worth the weight

        of air; my life is a mute testimony.
Perhaps she knows it, or maybe she is learning

        that when miracles arrive, they do
so trailing behind them not a series of further

        miracles, but what rubble remains
of the holes they were dug from. A fresh fear

        with its margin of tidy slices.
When the first prickle of paresthesia creeps

        along the arm poised overhead,
when her face stares into a primitive reflection

        of its mouth tangled with hair,
does she perceive of something wet and electric—

        a drowning, a floating, or a survival?
Does she locate a reservoir she would not recall

        begging for? I would ask her how,
but I am on my back, again, my arms slipping

        their wrapping. I was born wilder
than she imagined. I cannot yet know to feel guilty

        for thriving. For having been the first
to stick, tumbling face-ward into my animal exit,

        a brute. Neither would she know
to hold me accountable, that splitting a world in two

        was the least of it. I would destroy her
daily, with my thirsty throat. They cut me free

        as her back arched. She learned to void
herself, and run any excess off into the suckle

        of necessity: a pit and a diluvian flow
to which flooded everything. If not everything, then

        almost everything. The meager balance
of minimum wage and her hours and her body;

        her terror at having been asked to
restrain the moment before I struck myself alight,

        from finally sparking. Would she
have called it obeisance if the word appeared to her,

         if the moment had arrived for her
to learn it. I suspect not, in the same way that duty

        suspects any lingering sense of volition.
It is only when I have grown that they will begin
        to repair the mess I left in her:
a hollow torn from what flesh should fill, mesh her

        slackened walls. I can feel the staples,
the pinch of walking, she will tell me. Smiling,

        she will describe the sensation of
presence forming. The both of us and our thirst.

        We will learn to hold her gently.  
A surgeon teaches us the correct measure of force:

        imagine an egg, then quarter it,
he says. I imagine an egg, a crush, a colloidal drizzle.

        I want to take this story back. I cross
my fingers, I leave a little gap. My silent father

        eyes her closely, a sad smile at having
 lost nothing—having had nothing meaty to lose,

        merely the impression of pressure
and its luxury, the sense of attempt it pretends.

        My fingertips against her bent back
I wonder which labour hurts most. I’m not speaking

        of my own life, but of continuing
to choose something biologically predetermined

        to leave you. Might I have loved before
being born. I could not, I did not accede to a debt

        I will never settle. We cull a world
of its resources, we gift ourselves the phrase

        necessity, to palpate the twinge.
Even now, fixed with this plodding consciousness,

        I comprehend my own weight.
A forest of ancient lumber falls; my chest fills up.

        Somebody lives. If it was her
returning to this room, her face full in the cleft

        of my vision, I could finally ask.
I would ask her to tell me why she knew then

         and how anybody might, sifting
through the viscera find there the trembling shape

        of something small and willing
to continue breathing in a room that is gasping.