By: Dale Champlin
A Dozen Lip Hugs
I rest my lips against the soufflé of you,
offer my warm fur as a mother mammal
to your blue-eyed wildcat in free fall,
powder of yellow pollinating your nose
of always-always land. Together, we try
our best to welcome the angels, to trace their wingtips outlined with desire and
unpredictability. It is your childhood that gives me hope—your free-flowing language.
I keep a pillow in my nook for you.
It fluffs when I hold you tight,
a nostalgia of nurturing. I am a marked
grandmother now, you necklace me in shades
of peach and gold, the PJs of au bade.
You will always be my daughter’s precious
primrose. Yes—a form of always—clings like your hug. I have a child to love,
not muzzle. I delight upon your waking. If startled, I shout out the names of goddesses of unborn babes, a ledger of once-upon-a times. I count days and wait for the brush of your lashes—my nervous system a galaxy of whirling constellations.
I Watch My Mother Play
The smallest, she runs out of breath,
learning her place in the wolf pack,
her house locked tight. No key in sight.
Each room hers to rampage—
too bad—if a snake guards the door
—how can she get in?
At dusk she gathers fireflies,
smears their bright juice on her arms
and dark fern-shadow face.
Her brothers pedal her into the gutter,
twist her ankle in their wheel-spokes,
beat her with a sharp stick,
gnaw her like a bone
until she is hollow.
After all the nightmoths
are captured in mason jars
those brothers leave without her.
In darkness she remembers to forget
her terror of inaudible batsong.
But when the moon rises in the east
she feels in her limbs a dance coming on.
Once I dreamed—
we sat together at the end of summer
the cool blue mirror spread before us,
contrails of cocaine lined up in rows
from us to San Francisco.
I hear you as if you are with me now,
calling like sunlight glinting from
the lake’s surface. I am submerged
looking up. My hair floats around me
in green drifts of seaweed waving to
and fro in the current. I can breathe.
I muscle my way through pipes
in my underwater basement.
Flights of stairs rise on either side
like music, the moon scrubs the sky reflected
in my favorite stainless frying pan, and yet—
remember how you taught me heartache
and told me that our love was silly,
that food was poison and
the marrow in our bones was brick
before you threw my pillow into the fireplace.
I cried because I thought it was a bird
with all its feathers burning and the terrible
stench of it made us both sputter and cough
until we choked—a Dolly Parton song
played on the radio, maudlin but true.
Dale Champlin is an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine arts. She is the editor of Verseweavers and director of Conversations With Writers. Dale has published in VoiceCatcher, North Coast Squid, Willawaw Journal, Mojave River Press, The Opiate, and other publications. In November, 2019 she published her first collection, The Barbie Diaries, with Just a Lark Books.