| Carmen Gordon-Rein
I wore a tie-dyed shirt and
my hair in two pigtails. For some reason,
in my mind, my eyes are light blue.
I have never believed I look
as much like my mother as I do in that
snapshot of memory.
My mother ran her big hands
through the low bush blueberries that clung
to the quilted surface of a familiar mountain.
Mom told me that looking at pictures
of events helps to preserve memories,
but how do I know whether I remember the real
or just a 2D abstraction
of it? I picked the berries individually,
with simple-minded focus and
chubby, stained fingers.
I loved my mother more then
than I do now.
At the end of an unspecific day in winter,
I kicked the front door of my middle school open
breathed a cloud of clean smoke
into the frigid parking lot air. I watched
the cars making their slow way past the front of
with their precious cargo.
My father would have been late,
but mom was waiting, idling.
Various bags weighed down all of my limbs and I
used my foot to tap on the shiny red door so she
would open it
My brother used to say that
his one regret in life was not being born
with opposable toes.
Mom was irritable, her eyes the kind of grey you
when the long blade
of a sharp knife
reflects a disappointed sky. They bore
under my skin and grated against my nerves.
We fought about something stupid and
went to bed angry.
I loved my mother less, then.
She sent me a long text
to apologize, the same way I used to slip notes
under her door when our rooms were next to one
I opened the electronic message
but never responded to it.
I was broken once, in March, and mom drove me
to physical therapy,
and three feet before the parking lot,
clear, thin tears leaked
from her crystalline eyes.
Almost twenty years ago, she moved
to Alaska with Dad, far away from
her home with
the red maple leaves and the
Her mother never let her forget that distance,
and it hurt so much to see
her cry and
She left to get coffee and I
could not stop picturing her wet cheeks,
rivulets of tears carving out the decades of
joy and pain and insomnia
scored into her skin.
Mom does not love Alaska,
not like my father and brother and I do,
but she loves us all
I slowly healed myself, building
paper-thin layers of correction over my weak and
body and thought that maybe
I look more like my mother inside
than I let myself know.
Everything is inherently twisted and complicated
in its own unique pattern,
identical to everything else
only in its singular contortion.
I grasp at simpler strands
like flyaway hairs, like the palm tree pigtails
I used to gather and tease my thin hair into,
but my mother
refuses to be
In the silence between us
on the car ride home, I wonder
about the depths and craters
of her insides and mine.
My body aches, her soul cries out,
and there it is,
hanging in the air,
the silver-blue whisper of a sentiment,
that the closest you can get
to knowing somebody is understanding
that you will never comprehend them