There are only so many ways a boy
can save his mother and I know none.
Hair trailing upward, body twisting
I watched her drown in clean air.
I still blamed her for not making dinner.
Didn’t care for the floundering. Couldn’t
tie a sailor’s knot nor find a length of
rope. Now between us borders lie,
a gulf of time. When I call—
but I don’t ever call—she will say,
‘my son, a lifetime of never submitting,
not to any man or god, yet the angels
I can feel them dancing on my skin.
Who’s laughing now?’ It’s true, we all
knew she had a heart of gold. A pity,
my cousin said, it lies in a drug-fucked
woman. Sometimes I wake at night
choking on the rope I should have made
to save her. Maybe every beating
she gave me was warning
to flee a sinking ship. When she calls—
but she never calls, except for cash—
she says, ‘my son, the angels are burning
up like tiny candles, and the power’s out
so oh, I shouldn’t enjoy it, but I can see now!’
I’m lying prostrate by the unmade table
in the kitchen, empty plates & knives
floating to the ceiling. Let us both linger
in the image of the record-keepers blazing,
every sin purified. Across the tripwire
lines of country, we sit in the dark
waiting for the call to come or
for a length of rope to unfurl.
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