The Lights Arrive First


and dance across my mother             red and white             her face

reflected in the window of the passenger seat             a siren sounds

she asks             where are you taking me             I assure her

the ambulance is for someone else’s             emergency

buckle her from the backseat             listen I say             as if music were playing

waves across the highway             a sloppy applause            of water hitting sand

but it is too late             too dark to see             red and white             red and

we drive home             I picture her pink lips             pressed against glass

the chardonnay ocean             trapped in a bottle             hidden in our garage

things             I should have noticed             nothing makes me feel

more electric             than when I piece back my mother’s

mistakes             trace             footsteps sunken in wet shore             think

she should have been more cunning             I learn to swallow

her love             like medicine from a spoon

later I gather her ends             the seam of her blouse             arms up

just like she’d say             wobbly and obedient             she staggers

her face             parallel to bathroom tile             I let her clothes fall

like dead leaves             her lip             sags loose             before I drape her

in the safety of her floral nightgown             I study

her naked figure             outlines             the boundaries

of her body             I’m cold she says             a suffering             I pretend

not to hear             grip             roses and lilacs and lilies

a garden             between my hands             consider             whether to wrap her

in linen             allow her to forget             by morning             know

she will wake             only to realize             she’s been dressed

by someone else             that usually             she leaves

yesterday’s clothes             folded             on the shelf

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