By Katherine Soniat
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Extra info for A shared life: poems
But today, mother, it's you who comes back as the one left homesick from birth, your mother dead in the influenza of 1918, leaving you to a Daddy with a big cigar, who handed you over to your Granny and headed up east. Your life moved upstream with her to Bella Vista, where you glued lightning bugs to your ears. He was the one you would point at in the album, squinting from under his Panama hat, leaning on the sugarcane wagon. Laughing. And soon she danced you out of school, over to France, then up to Devon where I can still hear you telling of strawberries big as thumbs sucked down in whipping cream, of the Englishman who spelled out he loved you in a bracelet of signal flags as you danced yourself, careened yourself into the arms of laughing men.
Now, listen to me, I'm your mother, aren't I? And we stood there staring, as if this were revelation to us both. Page 58 War My mother said he was real, not a friend but my father, home, finished with a war as he snapped rubber bands around each lobster's red claws in that Boston apartment. I sucked my thumb, stroked her satin slip I kept for the dark, wishing it were dark. He stood behind her with his big, gold bourbon glass, his breath moving into her hair and out of her hair as he came closer to pull the slip from my hand, push the thumb from my mouth.
You must have been looking for someone far away, someone you wanted to come upon silently. Other times you broke the silence, waking me with a whisper to blow a good-bye to mommy-kiss-over-the-moon. Stayed away and came back. I grew seasick with your dissolve, your arrangement as something remembered your hands went out to me as if to say come down to the shore, be part of the drift, the mother-daughter pairs speckling the brilliant dunes. I reached out and you shifted into gardenias, perfume rounding the corner, a bruise slipped over the moon.