the love for a mother is a tough, tough love

– michelle tea (from the beautiful)

i talked to my mother today,

her voice was thick with sleep

and cigarettes. i could

almost smell that house

and the smoke that soaked

my clothes, the television glow

spilling over worn plaid white trash

couch and coffee table stained

with waxy rings from sweating glasses

of coke, the stale stink of homemade

knitted afghans wrapped around

sweaty feet, the shoes, the soft white

nurses’ shoes, dirty with hospital germs,

but wait, wrong house, she is

lifting my voice to her ear in a new house

without holes in walls, without daughters

without even a room for daughter

should they repent and return,

should the patriarch die.

she wants to know if i’m happy

but she does not want to know

what is making me happy

dark bars where i get drunk on words

i am writing, i say, i have a new book

and the line becomes this void filled with her fear,

what fucked up thing has happened now

to pull words from my pen, she doesnt want

to know and the line is this void filled

with anger i will never express

thinking about the woman i loved for a year,

we crisscrossed the country three times together.

i’ve without her for four months

and my mother, she doesnt ask

she has never even asked.

and i’m in love, i tell her,

that’s why i am happy.

im in love every day

every day with someone new

i’m in love with this whole city,

like the love was there first

and these women just make me

want to share it, and women,

yes, women, and sometimes it feels

like they could be in love too

they offer me their tongues

tucked in the red velvet boxes of

their mouths and i am in love,

i tell ehr (leaving out the details).

that’s nice, dear. 

nights spent in a love

that yields her no grandchildren

making as much sense

as a job that yields no pay.

but i’m an activist. ma,

it’s volunteer work, it feeds my soul.

work is drudgery

and she works, she works 703

she works 3-11

she works 11-7

till her nose becomes blind to the smell

of shit and living too long, she goes home

to her home, the home she owns, she

is a homeowner, with brand new furniture

cheap green velver, they are for show

they are guests who can sit

with their assess tightly clenched,

and all those thick-haired dolls with careful

porcelain faces tucked curely into curios

and her animals, the cat she tore

the claws from, the dog barking

from its fenced pantry pen.

living things are such a responsibility,

they are so hard to control, but she tries.

and i love her, i love her

i love her like a mother loves a daughter

who is moving in the wrong direction,

hanging out with the wrong crowd,

going with a guy you know is just no good.

i love her with a love big enough to hold every hurt

every time she did me wrong,

and the betrayal,

the big one like the atom bob, the one

that worked us into ground zero like

we’re living in nevada now, out in the desert

and every time i get too close i fear contamination

and i love her, so i weld words into instruments

trying to pry the crack in her heart

but they’re too big, clumsy to make her angry

or too small, sliding from my fingers into that place

where she keeps everything she never wants to see

(her life). and i love her, she is dying a slow,

slow death that will have taken her whole life to reach

in that house, with her cigarettes, her television.

her hamburger helper and her husband.

and i love her.