Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009)

Mother’s Holidays

 

I knew when I came home from school

to a darkened house, that mother was reading

a novel, no time for chores, crass routine,

so the laundry smelled sour, plates waited

in the sink, the range stood empty, humid air

made the dust on the floor stick to our feet.

 

The crow had probably come that morning,

cawed himself hoarse for steaming rice

and had flown away disappointed. So too

the squirrel, the dove, and the sparrow,

ancestors low on the hierarchy, who’d left hungry.

 

Mother sat on the divan, her hair uncombed,

falling in curly waves to her hips, her sari

crumpled between her drawn up knees,

her bindi smudged, face unwashed.

Soon she stretched on the divan and held her book

toward the dimming light and read and read,

not getting up to eat, drink, or use the potty.

 

I would look up occasionally from my homework

to read her expression, a frown, a smile, mouth open,

sometimes pursed, face contorted, taut, or relaxed.

I could sense her breathlessness as she careened through

the juggernaut of emotions in another world,

climax, downfall, angst, revenge, forgiveness, reprieve.

 

She was unaware of us helping ourselves to leftovers,

doing our homework without our usual fights,

tip-toeing around our novel-reading mother,

disturb-proof glass separating her from us.

We learned how to wait patiently for two days,

sometimes three, until vexation gathered

like debt-collectors at the door, when

she finally emerged as if from a dream.

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