Monday, June 29, 2009

What about the fourteenth?

Since I get requests for the text of this piece at least three times a month (and where it was posted once before, way back when, is now bye-bye) I will paste it here and include a photo from the day this poem was based on (above.)

Central Park, Mother’s Day

My son comes to me, holding
thirteen severed tulip heads.
A present he’s made, just for me.

I knock the flowers from his hands,
grab him by the arm, move quickly
from the crime scene.

I explain: the lake, the trees, flowers, birds—
do not belong to us.

I watch something bright and alive
go pale. His head lowers like those stems,
their broken necks.
Chin against his knees, he stares
into the grass. Does not speak again.

A mama forgets what her weapons can do.
Can't know which of her failures
will be what does it.
Tommy’s turn with the belt, in fifteen years,
becomes Meaghan’s throbbing black eye.

Christina’s twisted arm becomes
suicide without a note.
Kevin's scolding at open house becomes
only girls when they're upside-down.

This morning, I found thirteen tulips
waiting nervous at the foot of my bed.
I gathered them in a blanket,
kissed each tiny face. Gave them names.

One is The Crumpled Photograph I'll Find
of Myself in the Garbage. Two, The Dog
Smacked with a Tire Iron.
The First Time He Says “Fuck you”
and Means It

Four, The Heavy Girl He Can’t
Bring Himself to Love
. Five, My Empty Wallet.
Six, Hardened Piss and Vomit on the Carpet,
seven, A Lock on the Bedroom Door,
eight, The Word "Faggot" Scratched
Across a Face in the Yearbook.

Nine, The Eighth Time He Says “Fuck You”
and Means It.
Ten, Silence at Christmas,
eleven, The Shared Needle. Twelve,
Drunk at His Father's Funeral,

and thirteen, I have to press it against my ear
its voice is so thin. Thirteen is, Mom,
Do You Remember That Day at the Park?
It Was Your Birthday, I Think. Do You Remember?
How Small I Was, How You
Didn't Even Say “Thank you?”