from “The Spirit Change”
Not a soul must ever know.
Mom’s black hair a wing in pool light,
her glass of wine a big red eye. Drinking
in the lounge chair, head thrown back.
Drinking in the sky with her moonless eyes.
Little bottles in the closet, always hiding.
Always hiding under sheets like jewels.
I was looking in the closet; I was looking
out the blinds. Mom taking out the trash
that jangled. Mom’s bags full of storm chimes.
I wanted to touch the ghost of her face,
but the face was under water now,
eyes like buoys bobbing on meniscus,
eyes like the eyes in the water below.
Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction
and as willing to listen as the dying can be.
Before I told my mother
I was no longer her daughter,
a worm crawled into my ear.
It spoke in her voice. Whore,
it whispered. I didn’t believe in God
so I smoked a joint on the dorm roof
and lit a Mary candle. My tongues
were in pentameter. My tongues
were learned at Jesus camp,
where men hung
themselves on the cross
and told you your body was bad,
where I’d learned to live
without her. I thought
I could control myself. Then
the sky became my roof
and the floor was scrawled
in devotionals I’d learned
but still don’t understand.
From that high,
myself was very far away.
It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause,
there is something wrong with us.
Before Mom could see, light was a horse on fire.
But she remembered Muybridge, The Horse in Motion,
the Pegasus-moment—all four legs in flight.
A body can become instantly myth,
and the horse, like a candle, was blown out.
Twelve years since her last drink and still
her vision blurs, and still I worry over my own gray line.
It isn’t easy to breathe under all this smoke.
Always a thirst in the pit of the mind.
Always the galloping. Always the late nights.
While he was proving that horses could fly,
Muybridge shot a man, fled to Guatemala,
and got away with it. There are many ways
a body can take flight.