by Rebecca Rainof
We broke so many glasses that spring,
fingers made slippery with grief.
The cheap ones cracked into cosmic array,
made cuts too small to see.
My father apologizes as he spills
his wine again and waiters scurry.
It’s no big deal, he says, then waves
his hands, as if to hide the tremor
that inhabits each of us.
We are like infants,
newly born into familiar movements:
cup to lip, hand to knob, we set
our faces at the door, and wonder,
midfalter, how we did it before.
At the dentist, Sheila the technician
asks my mother about her girls.
She has cleaned our teeth
since kindergarten, since the days
we spent walking past to school,
begging our mother for frozen yogurt,
to glimpse a bird’s nest or pick flowering weeds
whose names we learned
with reverence. My mother sits
in silence, reclined, not answering,
the only sound the spit sucker
still hooked to her lower lip.
Oh no, Sheila says. And so
my mother tells her, but for the last time.
From that point on,
at grocery store or hair salon,
they’re fine, she answers,
and moves on.
In the stillness, my mother’s grief
begins to wear her like a statue,
a wound abiding at the center of a stone.
It is so fierce, this place of harm,
it becomes holy, untouchable,
sending out spasms that make her
pull over on the 405, cause her
to dissolve out of normal traffic patterns.
Now, a middle-aged woman come home,
I walk past the old high school
where a soft drone wafts out of a window
and recalls a forgotten calculus:
the formula for making a perfect bottle,
which, later I learn, is the same
algorithm for its spectacular collapse.
They did not speak of this secret,
the tight shatter at an object’s center,
guarded and precious as a tiny daughter
forever lulled to sleep in deepest embrace,
forever with the knowledge
that one day, without fail,
she will be waked.
Used by permission of the poet.