Six Poems of Mothers by Jessica Lopez

soft cartel may 2018

A Mother’s Manifesto

I am afraid to smoke my entire cigarette, so I puff quickly like a frail train and snuff it into the dead bottle of an empty bottled beer. The amber glows neatly, quietly and without a hiss. Where did sound go? I am tucked neatly into my corner pocket bed of the attic. A room I created to escape my family. But my daughter still tramples loudly up the stairs to demand money. My husband’s snores still creep through the walls. My dogs still amble up the stairwell and shed their hair upon my bed. I pretend I mind, and my meticulous habits sweeps up their aftermath. Sweep. Fold. Lament. Polish the wood-paneled floors. I do resent being a family woman, but also love it.

So, here is the story if you would like to hear it. I wake every day and brush my teeth, commute, punch the time-clock, wait for my child to be relieved of scholarly duties and scoop her up when the bell rings. Sometimes I cook a healthy dinner. Most times not. I put on weight. I drink the beers I know I should not. Make love once a month. My story is not uncommon.

Once, when I was thirten years old I stared into the mirror and acknowledged my beauty. My eyes were glowing almonds. Precocious rabid animals.

Knew I would be rich or famous or scandalous one day. I am none of those things.

Still I am happy. Smoke cigarettes when the house has retired. Snuff the smoke. The dogs breathe their dream-heavy sleep. The daughter and husband tucked into their cotton sheets. And I tinker away. An impotent Tesla. Juggling electricity. Scrawl words. Silly happy housewife words. Snub out half-lit cigarettes, so as not to poison the house.

The cherry tip of it, a red-lit beacon. Guiltily exquisite. A small memory of my best addictions.  It is all I can hope for.

I never hurt nobody but myself and that’s nobody’s business but my own.
-Billie Holiday

The Mother

I haven’t written a poem in your likeness for some time.
I tried. I took the broom and beat the cobwebs.
Lit one hissing cigarette after hissing cigarette,
let a dish fall to the floor, a porcelain scream.
I let the quiet shattering happen but could not eek it out.

Then I thought of this. You the young mother,
a knotted belt at your waist, slim and attractive
in photos. Your teeth gleaming and straight
like a string of pearls.

You hosted one birthday party in honor
of me my whole life. I was four years young
and it was a California Easter Sunday.
The kind of Sunday people move to the West Coast for.

You drew caricatures of rabbits and fashioned
yellow tufts of baby ducks. Dressed me in
my best cut-off jeans and plaited my hair.
Posed me in front of the cake, the cousins,
the wrapped gifts.

Picture after picture reveals that I was happy.

Mother, you were perfect as a plum.
Slicing the cake. A knife just a knife in your hand
and nothing more.

I am ten years older than you then.
A whole decade and more of misdirected men
have come and gone for me, a daughter
of my own. Many birthdays since that I
care less to remember.

And it took me this long to notice
the one thing missing from those
Easter photos that long ago day.

The father.

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