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.