The First Signs
And forsythia tumbles
over the fence
wild with yellow--
When I was seven a wasp
landed on my lip
drawn by the sweetness
of my mother's red lipstick
--while purple flagstones
split with grass.
The same day a child next door
squeezed six new kittens dead.
That's when I knew--
There are two shades of still.
It doesn't matter that a yellow leaf
spins cartwheels on the sidewalk,
or even that a few weeks earlier
it shimmied the green dance
of August like a 1920's tart--
see it didn't rustle it shimmied--
but that's not the issue. Neither
is the Carnecia on the corner
of Dora Street and Cove Road,
whose signs exclaim Goat Meat,
Cow Feet and Turkey Wings,
while I sit behind the transit bus,
and study a logo blatantly ripped off
from Degas, with ad copy asking
"Pregnant? Birthright gives free
pregnancy tests." The point
is--I turn to my left in disgust
and in front of the gray house
with white trim--here a tenth
of a mile from the projects--in
a yard no bigger than my bathroom,
grows a cornfield.
Hair tangles signal three weeks of work,
each knot grows with each day in bed.
Once a woman,
a wife, a mother--
now a captive of the house,
tied and bound by sleep.
Taking a shower makes her sleepy.
Pulling bristles through her hair, too much work.
As dirty dishes seize the house,
she scouts sheets and pillows on the bed
for misplaced anger at her mother.
Tired of being a woman,
she wonders if the title wears out all women,
if females need more sleep.
She decides to take a nap, then be a mother.
'Those synapses take a lot of work,'
she sighs and returns to bed.
Light retreats from the house.
She wants to be alone in the house,
resents that she's a woman
who's expected to get out of bed.
It doesn't matter that death and sleep
share the same job, do the same work.
Guilt hovers over this mother,
who refuses to speak to her own mother.
She feels safe in the house
it's the only talisman that works.
Makes her forget she used to be a woman
who never needed sleep,
and never stayed in bed.
"Hush. Sleep," croons the bed.
Her eyelids darken the role of mother.
Even a prince could not disturb this sleep.
Once rested she'll leave the house,
slip into the role of woman,
fix it so it works.
Soon the bed will not work,
and the woman becomes her mother,
even now while she sleeps in the house.