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Self-Portrait with Mary Ann Lamb’s

Akansas Toothpick

Mother, you lie at the source of the long black river that does not love the world. You knit black shawls at the very end of it. Your needles are ivory’s shocked white. Mother, you made yourself a necklace of unthinkable things which jangle and clash, which knock and witter together. You bid the Nibelung dwarves come to your knees and they bob all around you, waiting for you to choose. Mother, you clamp that caliper around the heads of those who will travel up the river. This is how you assess them. You scrooch over your own body like a bird, you pick up a crumb from your lap. You watch your reflection in the vague oval and dream it is someone more innocent.

Mother, you laugh, rock back, you have no teeth in your head which is full of perished veins only, you claim, and little else.

You sit in this room, in the deepest of chairs, wrapped in your shawls and chair-arms like a sunken fog,

like a ghost with a wide mouth. Mother, when younger, you turned your head away against a cirrus-blowing sky.

from The World Before Snow (2015)


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