Many parents work all day every day. A paycheck is different from poetry. I couldn’t justify what I was doing because I couldn’t predict the product with authority. I couldn’t bring myself to say what the poems would do and have absolute faith in the outcome. I realize now that’s because I’m process-oriented, but also because I couldn’t sell a product I didn’t believe in.
Do I still feel that way? As I child I temporarily lived with a young Russian woman who sobbed hysterically upon seeing the cosmetics aisle in an early 90s era Jewel. She’d been shaving her legs with a blade, hoping to marry a man who’d let her stay in the U.S. I saw the world through her eyes, I saw the rows and rows of goods.
The Oven Bird
Let’s just put it all out there because that’s what you want me to do.
I’m neither married nor religious but own an image of Audrey Hepburn with a cat wrapped around her neck and a cigarette holder in her mouth.
Could I not see my own disaster? Everyone in self-preservation mode was waiting for me to take control, which looks like the efflorescence before early petal-fall.
I understand mystery but not deliberate confusion, which is gaslighting. Love isn’t extremely efficient at producing light because of the large surface area of chemicals.
The Other Side
Earlier I thought of you in a photograph. What right do any of us have to speak on behalf of the other? My mother is making calls because her brother has special needs. She was taught four different responses based on whether or not the person who answers the phone is interested.
But this is also a woman who listened to me sing and swing for hours. It was a running joke that I sang loudly from the swing. Sometimes the words were made up but at least she knew where I was.
Nothing makes sense when you are gone.
How do I explain the need for your presence? Do I love you, or mining for exact meanings of words, as if whole nations depended on them?
We had looked like the postcard I saved from a creative writing activity, the commissioned image of two people kissing on a street in Paris while everyone else is rushing past them.
-- Beth McDermott is the author of How to Leave a Farmhouse, a chapbook published by Porkbelly Press. Recent poetry, reviews and criticism appear in Kenyon Review Online, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Trumpeter. She is currently an Associate Editor with RHINO and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL