mother poem

mother poem

by Miranda Mellis

Originally published in Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write About Class, edited by Susan Raffo.

pouring juice from a blue jar
braiding my hair
throwing a paint bomb at a billboard
sweeping up anguish
broken glass from a fist through a window
with her wing-tipped broom
she’s been told she leaks a poison from her heart.
i inherit the feeling, and her barricade, like a fence
that only spirits get past
she was framed and so i, unnamed
redess. because i can’t live that silenced way
-daughter of the shamed-
so i honor her.

sequence of events:
burrowing into her bare back
p o l i t i c s filet of sole j u s t i c e
blueberry pancakes p o r k c h o p s solidarity d y k e .
all those churches housing banner-makers at night
we wore gauchos and tried to feather my curly hair
cut off our barbies’ heads
while she postered/smoked/wept for sunrise tanks
consulted oracles on her children’s behalf
availed herself of the opiates of the masses
went on strike/wore combat boots/taught at high schools called
Sunshine, and Opportunity.
she had a girlfriend
named diana that
i was eleven
(something to do with retributive armed robbery
by which i was inspired to dream
of redistribution
of wealth)
diana was a goddess, right
underground like persephone (and in case you’re a cop maybe
diana’s night
Her Real Name)

third generation axis/con/artist
there is room for
all that scavenging pain, knowledge, and depression
mind a stinging hive and longing for human liberation
the mural in the hall, and the welfare check for toast today

and your voice downstairs i heard
(when politics was just a word)
she threaded my young mind incrementally
with simple values, like
always fight back
only steal from the biggest stores
work the landscape as outlaw
view it as mutable
imagination is the weapon of choice
your will is not the measure of all things
we are masked by contingencies
and revealed in action.
i perched on her bed
to drink desperation’s wisdom
precious like untold history
a circuitry
of mated worlds-tenderness, war, abuse, and resistance
vanity and insurrection, poverty and extravagance
joy and beauty in a terrible state
and despite governments
this is one who knows her mother from the frame they give her

“it has not paid to cherish symbols
when the substance is so close at hand”*
earth, beneath concrete skirt;
fill my mouth and eyes with your daughters
i am taking a very old way

*Audre Lorde, “Walking Our Boundaries,” in The Black Unicorn: Poems (New York: Norton, 1978)


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