Without my mother three blocks
down the hill in the upstairs flat
where the grandson of the ghosts
of my own home died in 1930
I have a need to be kind, kinder
to this thing called self. So I buy
meat, bloody and leaking,
the kind that has nowhere to go
in this thing called the fridge.
With it I buy packets of fairy
spices to add to the crockpot,
the spices that will take away
any memory of wrinkled snouts,
wry eyes, snuffling in the palm
of my own small hand. I cook
the meat that only my mother
would dream of making in this
thing called my house. It simmers
and scalds itself in a thin, oily
broth for six hours and six minutes.
There is no one to eat it with,
this sacrificed almost-pet. I cannot
explain to the shredded flesh on
my plate why I chose it, so I
share it with this stiff, deaf dog
with wolf enough in his veins. He
could not blow a house down. His
own breath is barely enough to budge
his own lungs, to nudge them to
continue their slow task of sustaining
a life slowly coming to a close. I stroke
him and think of my mother, sleeping
in a down-filled bed in the City of Lights,
giggling women outside of themselves,
going un-needed, unnamed for a week.
No one deserves cafe au lait and the
thing called Mona Lisa more than the
woman who frets when I tell her the
shadow figures are back again, human
and animal, dispassionate. I clean the
thing called the kitchen , then mount
the steep stairs (abandoning the creaky
wolf to his first-floor den) to the bathroom.
There, I think of my mother, and then,
my friend's mother, sweatpants in the
casket. I wept for her, for what will
come for us all, what comes always
when not enough has been said, for
it will never be said, not all of it, there
will always be the gristle, the flesh,
the heart that could not become word,
could not become more.
I brush my teeth. I wash my face and
when I am done, I lay my thing called
washrag (not washcloth, I am a fourth
generation Philadelphia girl) across
the faucet, haphazardly, black mascara
streaking the bleached, rough cloth.
I must be kind. I have cooked pork for
all the mothers who are not here.
I pick up the washrag and I fold it,
three times lengthwise, and lay it
gently across the faucet once more.
In the morning it will become the
thing called gift, a small kindness
on my own behalf. This is a start,
I think, a small start, despite the
dark flurries, despite the silence.