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MERCEDES JEAN WEBB-PULLMAN
Mother (after Plath's 'Daddy')
Three Poems for Sylvia #3
You neither sleep nor wake
you're elsewhere, face strained
and your eyes stare through
my eyes, searching behind
for some final message for you.
Mother, I want to kill you.
You suffer in this final zone—
feather-light hag-bag of bones,
frightening mummy, one huge eye
bright forget-me-not blue
the other winks with a droop
and nod in your coconut head
small on the hospital bed.
Once I thought I could save you.
Failing is nothing new.
As your tongue lolls, your lips
spit down your bristled chin
saliva strings and food.
A gentle kitten wipes you,
a touch you never knew.
You gave my first boyfriend a look
like something was stolen from you.
When he saw me naked, you took
much pleasure in beating me raw
as if innocence breaks some law.
Secreted between cheek and jaw
food goes rotten, sickening you.
Your clenched fist a claw
grips odd scraps of bread - your
knuckles clamp frantic and blue.
Your mother had no time for you.
How to learn what mothers do
when you'd been unwanted too?
I chose not to have children, I knew
as a mother I would have been cruel.
The green plains of GPpsland, clear air
hide ancient atrocities too
where your ancestors, with poisoned flour
murdered tribes. Their brutal power
killed dozens, not just a few.
I was always wary of you,
with your sticks and wooden spoons
when your eyes went crazy, the blue
hidden behind glazed rage
and spittle and curses flew.
Your God never listened - you
sat beside me whole services through
though I offered my bruised self as proof
of jack boots stamping, of brute
force, brute love, brute you.
You kneel in the garden, mother
in the best memory of you,
your smile, your dimple cheek
as we work together. We don't speak
but somehow we're one. Then you
pinch my arm nearly in two
and later when dark blood comes
and I don't know what to do
with these woman's things, all new
you make me learn from mistakes.
I was sixteen when I left you.
At fifteen I'd tried to die
to punish, to get back at you.
I failed at suicide too.
You hated me when my breasts grew
now your breasts, like rubber tubes
dangle down to your lap while mine
went unused, fed nobody life.
You're as helpless as I pictured you
when I wanted you dead, yet I flew
from my own home to care for you.
In some way now you're my child
and I'm learning motherhood too
as I feed and change you and wipe;
it's at night I still want you to die.
POETRYREPAIRS 12.09: 102