My Mother Is Afraid of the Floor

and everything else that is stone hard cold

or slippery or dead, indifferent as bones,

the color of light when it lies flat, no needle

of surprise or love or dirt to plant her hand

inside, no seedling either since it must be my fault

she’s rushed along the stair of her next fall,

even though I promise her she’ll never fall

while I’ve got her arm, though the bannister is cold

it’s stuck solid to the wall, terror is the fault

line cracking her body, which is nothing but bones

inside of cloth, a bit of venom to grip my hand

and a dose of shrill calculation. Age is a dull needle

injected slowly. That is to say—time without its needle

points in one direction now, objects seem to fall

all by themselves. There are bruises on her hand

I don’t know how, since she is always cold

and stays in bed. What propels the center of the bones

when nerves are lost and messages begin to falter—

you can’t blame the vertebrae, it’s not their fault

of course, they have no cranial to needle

them along, it must be tension that keeps track of bones,

whose marrow is only sweet when the scaffolding falls.

It’s the stiffening of blood that makes the joints feel cold

-er at extremities, the flexible, proficiency of hands

that is the miracle of thumbs, how we got to be handier

than animals, which ends eventually. It must be our fault

since she hates us all, floating on her island of fog and cold,

as we smile on our way elsewhere, her voice a bitter needle

Why is the world shaking, but we don’t ever fall?

I can’t get away from her fast enough. I am turning into bones

also. There is a red mark on my arm above the wrist and bone.

I don’t know how it got there. My face looks like a hand

me down of hers, as another stretch of muscle falls

from its perch of youthfulness, a map of the body’s faults

for others to follow, another stitch from the day’s needle

to sew the daughter back inside her mother’s cold.

Is it my mother’s fault her hands fall like two needles of cold bone?

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