At birth, my mother recites my ba zi / to a monk, and like all good daughters, // I do not ask. How can a mother / help but lead her daughter // Astray?
My Mother Renames Herself Winter Blossom
Once I left a man in a supermarket
shining with plastic entrails, slabs hanging
by the hook, stinking fish sucking finality
from beds of ice. I am ashamed
I cannot hang onto any love.
I stretch, press & fold not by the seams
but along fields holey with what should
not be said. You tell me I am a better daughter
than lover. Loyalty misaligned,
I had forgotten to shed that skin.
A prayer, then!
Lick these indecent hands clean
of mothers. I mispronounce vasectomy
as mastectomy, which is what you wanted,
not what my mother had in secret
when I left. On the phone she says,
You know I was the most beautiful
flower in town. I turn,
beg you to pin me under,
Look at me now!
& to drink from my worn mouth
until I am no more daughter
than the blossom’s slow rot
On our way back from consulting the Oracles
of Delphi, the American, Greek, and I clutch
Each other as the Canadian swerves
sharp mountain curves, Slow down!
The American yells, I fear for my life!
She takes a poll. We raise our hands.
But just then, I couldn’t claim the living
as my own, my body was in a car
I no longer believed in. Perhaps
because nothing truly bad has yet to happen
To me, the momentum feels right now,
safe. I didn’t know how to say this,
Couldn’t disclaim life by the throat.
My uncle died on roads like these,
The American says. I touch her arm,
My friend’s sister too, on a ski trip.
Behind us, the orange-shingled ski town where
we stopped for galatopitas shrinks into exhaustion.
By the way, there is no oracle-person,
the Greek reminded us on the way up.
But can I get my palms read?
The American replied, I’m so lost.
At a time of economic need, the woman
atop the marble sarcophagus was re-carved
Into scrolls, the man she lay next to turned
on his side, face molded into a boy’s.
At birth, my mother recites my ba zi
to a monk, and like all good daughters,
I do not ask. How can a mother
help but lead her daughter
Astray? Keep your questions silent
like birthday wishes, the American says.
In front of the oracle’s house of ruins,
I mouth what I do not know.