Sunday, October 26, 2014

Look Out [poem]

Look Out

My mother has gone early to make
biscuits for McDonald’s. She tells me
she can crack eggs with one hand.
She tells me how fast she works.
When she comes home, I smell
other peoples’ hunger on her, not
her own.  She leaves so soon
the sun hasn’t had a chance yet.
The moon is still out, a flashlight
with its battery dimming.  I look
out the window of her brothers’
bedroom, where mama has stored me,
in her childhood home.  I sit in the black
back bedroom and wonder what home
feels like, and brothers.  Their papers,
posters, books smell like dead things,
look like flesh rotting off the bone.
Where are her brothers? Are they
angry at her like my father? I let
the moon watch over us both –
the soft gleam eye sees in the dark.


Most of the times that my mother and I ran away from my father, we ran to her parents' house.  We would stay there until my mother got back on her feet, found another place to stay, or got back together with my father, who'd found another new start for us. 

I was scared staying at my grandparents' house.  They seemed distant and hard and angry - toward each other, toward my mother, toward me.  I very much felt that I had done something wrong by showing up in the night, by existing.  And my mother had done worse. 

I felt no sense of comfort, of compassion, of give except for the reluctant give to allow my mother and I to stay within their walls rather than outside of them.  I'm grateful for at least that give, because some don't get even that from their families.  Some run to shelters full of strangers. 

Still, my grandparents were, and remain beyond their deaths, strange to me - confusing, unknown, unfathomable.  Looking back, I still feel that my mother and I were a nuisance and a worry to them both. 

I was a car's headlights shining in their windows in the middle of the night.
I was a same sad story repeated under a bright light in the kitchen.
I was dirty feet in my grandmother's bed.
I was a mouth to feed when their time for feeding mouths was over and gone. 

To this day, I live my life on constant guard of being a nuisance and a worry to others. 

In this poem, I recount what it was like as a young girl to hide in my uncles' bedroom - a bedroom last inhabited when my uncles were young men - while my mother worked the wee hours of the morning at McDonald's. 

My uncles - at that point grown men with their own lives - were also unfathomable. I contacted them like in a séance by the books and papers stacked in their room.  One or the other of them or both collected Rolling Stone magazine.  I found the articles to be abstract, anarchist and terrifying.  I was in middle school.  Carly Simon was on the cover of one of the magazines.

I found Carly Simon to be unfathomable. 

I was a young mimic of my mother - frightened, unsure, but doing what needed to be done.  I sat in the dark and waited.  She went out into the dark and worked. 

I wrote this poem on October 26, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project.

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