I’m mad about stuff and someone told me, “Write a poem, that seems to help you when you’re ready to break bones.”
But poetry is supposed to be pretty or eviscerating or something you stir into your tea to watch it form galaxies. We teach poetry to my second graders as “big ideas in small packages.”
The big idea: my mother is sitting on the couch, coughing hard. She has dark circles under her eyes and tiny lilywhite hands, calloused fingertips and palms. She has raised us my putting herself into the ground and telling the soil to break her down so we may grow bold, she has bled for us, has forgotten to spend money on herself, has raised us with the words, “You can be anything, just be true to yourself.” Her family lives like lonely freckles, spread over the map where she cannot see them. Two years ago, she buried her best friend. Three years ago, she was in a hospital for chemotherapy, holding our hands when we got scared. Four years ago she turned fifty, had a back that always hurt her, had a stable job she hated but picked up a second minimum-wage one, just to pay the bills. This is my mother tonight, lying with her feet stretched out and falling asleep to bad tv shows, this is the woman who is more warrior than anyone I have ever known, who is kinder than I could ever be, who gave up her whole life so that her children may have their every desire, this is the woman and you put her in a small package.
This is the small package: fat.
You spat at her feet while she held the door open for you. I wonder if you could taste the radiation of her breast cancer treatment, the hours we spent wondering if she was going to make it. I wonder if you knew how many times she held a new dress in her hands but didn’t buy it because she’d rather spend money on her kids. I wonder if you could see the responsibilities she keeps stacked in perfect rows inside of her, I wonder if you could smell the funerals.
This is not poetry. This is how you get a twenty-year-old pacifist to go from weak-willed to absolute rabid, my fists balled at my side while you strutted past us. And you probably went home and felt good about how you had acted, how your actions were some kind of wake-up call for a woman you have never met. This is not poetry because I threatened to hunt you down and tear out every poorly-dyed hair on your head, I said I would slash your tires and steal your wallet, I felt my temper flare and my throat dry up -
and my mother just smiled and said, “Forgive her, my love.”"
I would wish terrible things on you, but I was raised better. /// r.i.d