When my mother died, I didn’t shower for months
I wore grief like ripened fruit, forgotten.
The overwhelming stench my punishment
for laughing too loudly, for moving on—
a whore hiding behind too much makeup.
Like a corpse left in a house filled with children’s laughter
I tried to hold on to my former life,
tried not to decompose under the weight
of the death of the one who birthed me. Each
step forward the finely stitched shroud of
too many steps back. Life offers
no repeat wears. My closet filled with memories
too baggy to cover me. Grief worn awkwardly can’t stand.
A lonely daughter, estranged from life,
running blindly down dark hallways that stretch on forever.
Ode to the Woman Who Lived in Front of the Gas Station
You resemble my mother. With her dark skin and
mysterious ways. And that’s why I stopped. To see
if I’d have to work as hard for your love too. Mothers
are always with us, occupying a space in our hearts
even when they aren’t very good mothers. Mine
was never good at softening love, no butter soft
edges, no soft shoe dance with words. My mother
has never been easy to love. But I loved her easily
when I saw her in you. My mother seemed absent
yet present too. I thought I could save you
with my love, no different than how I have loved
others. My mother can sleep while sitting up too.
The night you and I had dinner in the near empty diner,
I kept wondering what more I could do. I called
agencies. Asked you if you had family. Of course,
I do, you said. And they’re coming to get me.
They never did. When I brought you long underwear,
a Christmas gift, you promised me all the riches
my pockets could hold. Seven times seven hundred,
you told me. I wondered where your mind was
and if I could somehow travel there too.
Did I ever tell you I love you? I’m pretty sure
I didn’t. But I do. You weren’t there last week.
And I cried for you because a mother should never
have to drag large garbage bags behind her
while she trudges down the street. A mother
should be able to look in her daughter’s eyes
and see that she’s been longing for her mother’s love
for much of her life. Did I ever tell you I love you?
Because I do. And if I ever see you again, I’ll tell you.
But just like my mother, when I needed you most
I searched for you and found that you were gone.
Photograph by Lauren Smothers
Rosalind Guy is currently a first-year MFA student at the University of Memphis. She has worked as online editor and reader for The Pinch, the English Department's literary journal. She's also an English Instructional Coach at Central High School in Memphis and an adjunct professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College. She's been published in African Voices magazine has two, self-published collections of poetry.