Oct/Nov 2006 Poetry

Love, Death, Etc.

by Howard Good

Photo by Jim Gourley

Love, Death, Etc.

My mother scoops snow off the fire escape into the kitchen pot. Her hands dart like birds. I'm four, maybe five. It's snowing for the first time, but I'm sick with something and can't go out. She carries the snow to the bathtub where she bathes my brother and me, scrubbing us in a kind of rage until our skin is as rosy as the bottoms of angels. After she dumps the snow from the pot, I kneel outside the tub and play with it, not knowing what I'll remember one day or that no one escapes the fire.

Someone asks, "Have you written anything yet about your mother's death?" "No," I say, "no, I haven't." I don't explain that there aren't any angels to consult, and that if there were, they'd hurl themselves like drunks onto the gleaming knives and spears of the spires below. Instead, only birds scatter at the approach of dark, and I try not to see too much, the forgeries and desecrations, or the black snow collecting on the floor of my heart.

Then it's spring, a year since the failed operation, the road into town smeared with blood and entrails, and a quorum of crows crowding around what's left, hungry, contentious, but to me, simply driving past, it looks different, like a blob of God's spit.

Where we sleep, you know, it isn't necessarily where we wake up, it all depends on what we dream, my dead mother, for example, crisscrossed by the fence, fingers hooked through the diamond-shaped links. Maybe the complexity of the machinery has made me restless, or the heat from someone's tears, but it's 2 a.m. and I'm still awake, every rusty cut burning with its own peculiar insistence, and the radio on the white nightstand for company.


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