This is Not a Poem About My Mother
C and I are navigating shower sex when I think
of my mother.
At 8, I kissed my first
cigarette. Crouched under a bathroom sink, I sucked
the wrong end of a half
smoked navy cut, my palms stuck to the wall
in celebration or balance or both.
My mother walked in without knocking, crushed
my coolness to ash and we never spoke about it again.
In another country, I am still afraid of my mother
walking in on knowledge she doesn’t want.
Like how cigarette and woman come
together in the bedroom, the only warmth—my flame-licked
skin, and her tensed tongue armed to tease them both.
Over the phone, my mother says: “Everyone has father issues these days. To be a successful poet, you should make up mother issues.”
Mothers are a black thread twisted around my shoulder
blades wrapped into stiffness.
C says love, says won’t you meet
my Mamma, says what does your mother look /
like? I say love.
say Mother America say Mother India say Mother of mine who cannot with my ecstasy
I tell C no one loves me like a mother would.
C says no one loves a fragile queer. I choke
on the thread as it slices words out:
Say Ma say Mother America say Mother India say love me like a mother won’t.
What I am trying to say is:
C slips on soap
and my arms—maddening in its fumbles—become
My shoulder shoved
against the chill of mirror reflects my mother’s
My thirst tumbles
down C’s throat, burns
into the sound of my mother.
That sometimes, I laugh at my jokes for too long when no one else does, & turn into my mother.