National Poetry Month Day 24: “After Aftermath” by Cate Marvin
Orphaned boys plus my mean calculations.
Orphan boys plus desire equals their long
bodies. How they sucked summer-long water
off a garden hose from beside the trailers.
Their mean mothers weary of them sharing
rooms in mental hospitals: I want to meet
them with flowers, thank them for offering
up their sons to this, our glazed plexi-glas
world. What would we do if not for them.
If not for them, how could I breathe. How
would I know what to do, if I did not have
to care for them because they learned how
to not care for themselves because of you.
Orphan boys make mean men. Because of
them, I feel mean. I make my calculations.
Because I love them, am loving how they’re
dropping off the other end of their phones.
You hung up on them. They hang up on me.
I am tired of your ultimatums, Skunk Mom.
My eyes squeeze. I’m unhappy with you, Mom.
You’re not my mom, but I’m calling you Mom
now that I’m his mom, Mom. Your son can’t
say what he thinks because you didn’t teach
him how to articulate himself, Mom. Shhhh,
your beautiful baby’s asleep. I’m a mom too.
You left him alone in that room that night he
heard you rucking on the sofa, Mom. Said he
saw a ghost. It shooed him from the doorway
so he would not see you fussed up on a sofa.
He was just a little kid, Mom. But I get it. Kids
forget. I’ve got your kid in my bed now, Mom.
It’s inky in here, where you forget him, Mom.
I love him as stars lick our faces with the nose
wet cold of cat kisses. I had thought of men
as flowers. I picked a few. Then I met your son,
Mom. He’s still weeping flowers to that belt’s
swish in your basement. And isn’t it on nights
like this, Mother, the thought of killing yourself
looks you head-on, beautiful in the face, velvety
and faithful in its gaze as that of the violet iris?
This is men, Mom. Your mistake was begetting
one. Mine was letting him in. He’s asleep now.
Shhhh, your son is safe. What about you, Mom?
What about me? We’re only daughters. Who’s
become our father? Your son, Mom, your son.