Cathexis Northwest Press
Mother: Days After Nights After Lost in a Hole; After Her End
By: Jenny Keto
Mother: Days After Nights After Lost in a Hole
Scathed, unscathed—scathed somber, she and death: so
delicate do crucify. It’s the intersection I question—
I defy—her answer unruly to the touch. Backyard, our
memories, bleach bone, the color of secret my family keeps
buried under shopping carts, trading Sunday cut paper
coupons for a discount on world weary, while I wonder
where my mother went, who my mother was before the
hum of hot children. And I wonder what she wished for
wearing dresses sewn to days caressing him, before her
voice deadened to distant in the quiet fill of night. Ripped
irreparable by my passage into days, there is no seam left
to keep her from this threadbare. There is no way to fill my
mother whole again or mend the hole that keeps my mother
sick of her nights after days after— each hour with her
apparition, I ache the way an echo fills an empty cave.
After Her End
I kept knocking my backpack against the locked glass, because Mother could never hear my hands ask. I kept knocking, careless of my favorite thing I brought to school that day for show and tell. I kept knocking, even after my palm-sized world broke; once a glass-encased display, then a cracked egg, yoke spilt and splayed.
My snow globe could not bear the blows. Nestled among matching Care Bear tin box and canteen, it became a marble my backpack slung and shot against the sliding glass door. I hadn’t collected enough years to know that knocking two of the same together will break one or the other. I didn’t notice the sound of glass on glass splitting until a second after my hand stopped to hear the silence.
It was my world—to shake with God-hands clasped around it, and make the elements tremble. It was my world—gone—no longer here to watch the weather settle to the speed of taffy stretching from my sweet teeth. It was my world—there—cracked flat, wet on the deck, choking on air.
My backpack bled glimmer. Held inside its chest, each piece of glass jangled jagged. Something cut. My breath stuck, because I knew the sound of broken. Mother told me never to pick up what is left sharp, or risk blood. But still, I unzipped to find my mermaid washed up with beach glass on damp canvas shores. No longer riding her seahorse immersed, I plucked and put her in my palm. I wondered where her gills were, and how there might be a tremor, her grasping for air. I crossed all my fingers and strained to cross all the crosses, hoping that after this end, she could crawl out of my girl-hands—clasping— and begin again.
I imagined her every time I ticked and tucked a loose lock of hair behind my ear. I imagined her every time I felt left lost like her—with Mother. I imagined her, renamed her, then heard her rising tide hum and rush to greet me—anew.
Now, I am Her, with woman-feet to saddle and ride my horse on new land. I pack sand with every gallop along the coastline, in the opposite of direction. My hair once coiled tight, now lets the wind break each strand free. I sing the way a mermaid’s mane would stream behind her kinetic spree. Air brushed with sea salt. Mad with glee.
Jenny Keto is a psychiatric nurse, a former actress, a proud Austinite, and--of course--a poet. My poems have appeared in Déraciné Magazine, Francis House, The Conglomerate, wards, Broken City, and Visitant.