In this poem, my mother does not slouch darkly in our corner chair
each time you & I make love. Her hand does not cover her face.
She’s not crying out in tongues. I’m leaving out of this poem the part
of our wedding where, when no one was looking, I danced
with my mother’s empty Sunday dress. It wasn’t eggshell, floral.
It did not smell faintly of her ritual Crock-Pot roast that simmered
in the parsonage while we prayed. In this poem, my mother doesn’t pray
each night for you to leave me, to take our son & go. See, in this poem,
my mother cannot be a ghost because a ghost was once living, loved
into a slow, sour ache. In this poem I was born when lightning struck
an abandoned church. The baptismal sparked & slopped me out
whole. The best thing about this poem is how easy it is for me to tease
my love for you apart from the loss that is not in this poem. Not much
happens in this poem. I am just lying in the backyard with you & our son
on a blanket that was made long enough to cover my entire gangly body.
Someone crocheted it for me, years ago. You know that, in this poem,
it was not my mother. It is not her months of whispered woolen prayers
we rest our heads on now as we name each cloud. Our son sees broken animals
hobbling across the sky: a crested pteranodon with just one wing, a mammoth
that misplaced one of her tusks. I, predictably, see a chrysalis, a hermit crab
weighed down by the home on its back. I press my lips to your shoulder,
rest them gently against our boy’s cheek. You take my hand. We fill the sky
with whatever we want.