Wednesday, January 15, 2003

As Mother

As Mother
Ashley Harper

She is visited by cataclysmic possibility
at inopportune moments--
at birthday parties, shoe stores,
orthodontist appointments.
Her body covertly plots to expose
the frail heart, like a victim of disease.
Adrenaline is slipped into her cereal, anxiety
dosed out in her eggs.

Slapping at worry, the persistent fly,
she clings to the curb like an apron string.
Carpool, the roiling mass of arms and heads,
her daughter’s lost there somewhere.

As mother, she finds her body
the heart’s ventriloquist. The lumbar
vertebrae grinding under the heft of her
sleeping girl; her legs turned aqueous at
a siren, the heart rising and dropping
in the airless spaces of worry.

Rallying, she enlists the senses,
consoles herself with the reward of a child’s
crying mouth on the neck,
the soft valley at the skull’s base,
the smell of sweat and pea gravel,
wet footprints on the bathmat,
their dry and absent instep.

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