Excerpts from the poetry collection Still by Rachel A Elmer
It’s a raw tropical fruit,
cut open on the horizon of loping
hills, spilling juicy guts, pith
and pulp, wholly over the tight
spruce scrub on the north slopes.
It’s the flesh of the sun poured out
on a clean tablecloth, sticky syrup
thick and hot seeping between
the fibers of the air like fire
curls embers in the root of moss.
It’s the dip of a lover’s tongue
into the hollow of the throat,
the bight of the hip, the reeds
of the neck, and glowing joy
right in the tender places
tucked between shadow
and dust, must and cloud,
locked in the emptiness
of a sharp inhale held tight
against the aching chest.
I try to remember the face my mother had when I was young
like a photograph, my memory shaped by the images
taken from another person’s memory and framed. Who held
the camera then? My father? An old friend I don’t remember?
She smiles a whole room as if the sun just came in a window
and I am there in these images, a tourist in her life. And then
my face was my father’s face – a round, squinting grin – until
I became a woman and saw my mother in myself. I am her,
in a way, a reflection living a parallel life twenty-eight years
behind her, with her bones, her blood, her DNA, her smile
and I will carry her with me to the grave alone. Twenty-eight
years ago my mother was the age I am now and she was
giving birth to me. I can’t imagine what she must have felt,
but it must be very different from how I feel now – alone
in my body, wholly who I’ve always been. The others I carry
are my ancestors. They may stay in my breath and heartbeat,
sitting near my hearth together, my grandmother’s laugh
like a windchime, but it ends with me, smiling like my mother.
Copyright © 2020 by Rachel A Elmer
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