Falls Church, a Hard to Name Event
It is hard to picture my Virginian mother
in snow. I take a train through the place
where she was born and cannot find her.
Name the event that happens
when you run from rusted wheels
for the place that first hurt your mother.
I come back for revenge and cannot
find her either. I am a lousy heroine,
seeking out what caused my mother to slap me
hot all those nights. Falls Church
recognizes its own with a quickness not unlike a train
screaming past a near-frozen lake with a girl soldier,
body full of stale bread and butter, burnt
coffee, the sins she committed
against her mother, the ones she never
went to confession to undo.
Father, forgive me. In this sin story
I am on a chair and I reach up
in my closet-belly, but cannot locate
my church dress. I beg help. Mother
breezes in and the dress appears.
Hot slap. I could not find it on my own.
Why did beauty hide from my body,
though appear for her always? The power
of identification. Don’t have that yet.
Can’t find her either, I go back
to this place with… which sword?
What did I think I would do here?
The lousy heroine cannot unwrinkle
her silk skirt and so emerges slowly
from the train. Suitcase: underarm powder,
lip stain, boxed crackers, coins for days,
herringbone coat, blood under her
nails. Name the event that happens
when you go back to fix
the lives of your mother. A feeling
like tongue lapping winter bark.
A bad decision; you do not know
why you do this. Why do you do this?
The answer rises: the sunlight
that rocks all white houses yellow,
the trees knocked into the snow.
In the illuminated night market, I buy one
pair of earrings, all mother
of pearl, dripping hard
down my ears. They are the same
color as my neck!
So have I been birthed by the ocean
too? Can I be worked into something
a woman might wear to feel lovely?
Come on now, Mother, I love you—
Tell me where I came from! You know I fear
the ocean with its hot swirl— and yet
you are too beautiful. All calm, all
dark. You never could have made me.