Ode to My Mother

“Poetry for me is sympathetic pulses that disturb in order to re-generate sympathy. We turn toward another being when our associations are breaking and our imagination is most alert.”
— Leora Fridman, from “Precious Coast

I can’t speak for my mother
sitting across from me
in a kitchen where
she revisits her ghosts.
As a daughter with porcelain skin,
I can’t listen to her wars
through her eyes.
I hear her but I do not witness
her step-father shaking
her in a snow globe
to rid of her melanin.
He said to her,
“Beautiful flowers
shouldn’t be distracted
by an ugly vase
& you’re that ugly vase.”
Since then, she taught me to grow
where flowers don’t belong.
We merely exist in a photograph
overlapping a village
where the tree
splits in two countries.
The oven overtowering my frame,
I make her huevos rancheros
while she lives in a language
that can’t be found
in the fault-lines of my palm.
I see her but I do not witness
her as a child
losing her mother
caught in-between men
rearranging the stars
& erasing her home’s
timeline from the sky.
My family cast as outsiders –
I have not read letters written
by the offspring with the hands
of many silenced arms.
She asks me,
“Do you want to hear
your grandmother?”

I do

& I can’t.

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