Mother, My Ashes

My house burned and now your ashes are mingled
with those of my home—
beds and scraps of poetry and walls.
The April skies are a blue hum that turns to gray water
when the winds come, and the bindweed
already strangles the clematis while I let it,
while I seek shelter.

if you were here I would lean against
your strong, Austrian bones, touch
your weathered face and remind you
that every home is temporary, even that of body,
and you didn’t have to fight your death so much,
the ragged breathing and sweat in the nursing home,
which smelled like detergent and urine.

if you were here you would find me a home.
I am so alone.
But I have friends and family, just not you.
In the evenings the liquor soothes me,
and when the sun drops over the mountains,
shadows stretch into my belly and nestle
in my empty breasts that once fed my children,
as you did me.
I become the rain and though the ground is thirsty,
I want the sun to cut through the trees and allow
the shade to do its dark work.

Father gave me a pill made of blood and rancor
and he told me if I swallow it, an apple tree
would grow in my body.
He gave me a glass of water and made me swallow it,
and you didn’t protect me.
It tasted like vinegar and metal.
It grew in me and God pushed me out of the jungle
into a city’s alley where discarded needles
punctured my feet and the man with the green coat
gave me a torn blanket.
At least now I’m never cold.
I forgive you.


I remember how your ashes glinted warm on the Danube
and carried you to the Black Sea.

The only sea I know is the Saragossa Sea,
which has no shore.

Published by Narrative Northeast, 2018, nominated for a Pushcart Prize