What ticked inside my mother’s mother’s
brain to keep her calm enough to do the dishes
by hand? I won’t let this be another modern-day
poem about serotonin when it wants to be about
ancestral anger, about my mother’s breast
cancer, about my grandmother’s yellow house
dress with the pocket, about pockets –
the pockets of my brain that leak serotonin,
my mother’s breast the surgeon left behind,
a ticking pocket, leaking fluid, the calm
house my mother grew up in, her mother
seething like a kettle on a gas stove, hands
in suds, a drying cloth soured near the sink.
What do you think we kept private, all three
of us – what do you think we keep quiet
and tucked away until the steam
screams from an ultrasound machine?
My mother's knuckles always
look like they're ready to burst
forth from the skin, too wide
and bulging for birth,
like a newborn's bare bottom.
My mother, born breach,
now folds her hands in her
lap, the long fingers delicate
in the bent way a tall girl
tries to be delicate, and the surgeon
speaks to her as he would a girl, whose
breasts are blooming in reverse.
What if, dizzy and low on sugar,
walking down the aisle, you get
overwhelmed by all you can’t
have – not the groomsmen
with their puckish smiles, not
the sweat of the neighbor’s body,
jogging in polyester shorts at 6 am,
or gathering fallen branches
from his yard late evening,
stopping to lift his cap and
wipe his brow? What if you’re
about to spend your life making
gallons of sweet tea and love,
and only one man holding out
a glass to you?
downed your first pour in a gulp,
the ice settled loud and hollow,
now you tilt the pitcher again.
What flows out of you as you
reach the altar, your groom
well hydrated and still thirsty,
the preacher smiling like to
eat you alive?