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Two of the nine poems in the series “Dialogues with Mum”:
6. Receiving Guests She remembers when my brother saw a crow perched on the metal frame of his hospital bed, his brain inflamed, making him talk through his hat about phantoms;
but it's her brain all fired up now: she thinks she has visitors — my sister — perched at the foot of her bed, my brother and his wife waiting in the living room, sitting in the antique wing chairs.
She must throw off her silk comforter, what she has always called her puff, get up, get dressed or else they'll think her rude or worse worry there's something gone wrong that she's taken to bed in what she thinks is daylight.
When the word hardware comes to her she remembers where clothes are kept, knows the ornate brass drawer pulls will be cold to the touch: but she must make herself presentable,
tug and pull to get into the mahogany bureau, rummage around in lingerie, choosing a flimsy faded pink camisole — no bra — she isn't going out today — some silk fancy pants trimmed in Raschel lace.
But the armoire choices prove most baffling: blouses, sweaters, no slacks — she never wore slacks — but there are dresses in six sizes.
A mad shopper, she is lost in the racks trying to find just the right skirt to Wow, while the wire hangers put up a good fight, intertwined on the pole. Now where is that Nile green gown? the one she wore just once in the fories to a dance.
Struggling for balance she manages to dress herself, pulls through her wispy fine white hair the familiar soft bristle brush she used grooming all four babies.
Ready, down the corridor she goes, expecting to find her visitors waiting.
But her roomy house is eerie, just full of night missing its moon, and she is alone, the clock ticking away on the Governor Winthrop desk, time illuminated in a dark corner of the next room.
9. Doubt Some days she lives in neighborhoods where she can't get lost:
at the corner house she finds her aunt and cousins,
then at Fine Point — No, (she makes the correction), Pine Point, all her summer friends live on a mound of sand (she means the beachfront).
and off the country road there is what she calls the homestead. She'd been there visiting she thought, out all day, enjoying spring, the wrong season. She says the trees along the way were a full-leafed canopy to pass under.
Sometimes though, a question escapes when she opens the refrigerator, empty of everything but doubt,
or when she surveys faces in the living room — someone in the wing chair — and who are those two on the couch?
Where is everyone, the people she knew when she couldn't get lost?
In nine decades she has found her way to lost. She says, I haven't seen my mother or my father in so long. I don't know why, don't know what's going on.
When I call to say I'll visit she says: Do you know where I am now? I'm not in the old place.
It isn't spring at all when this is happening -- the harvest is already in — the flower shops have chrysanthemum. The temperature dips lower overnight. Wheels of Queen Anne's Lace dry up, turn inward into tight brown nests.
--First published in Istanbul Literary Review
Sorcery On this island hummingbirds drink from blue banana flowers, and orchids in the cloud forest attach themselves to every tree, making you fall for them,
leading to confusing and forgetting who you are you begin to think: am I a flower, a bird, or maybe I'm a tree?
On this island you will find The Valley of Desolation and also the sometimes dried up Boiling Lake.
You will hear, too, the dove, it's awful sad cry, because in the rainforest even the sadness of a dove has more muscle.
And the pigeon with a red neck coos, comforting the trembler, and the pearly-eyed thrasher.