In the Kitchen: Death Wish Dream
Heat from the cellar boiler scorches the floor. My mother’s stockings coil around her ankles like bumpers. She licks the tip of her index finger and pushes up the page of the paper. The corner falls over the story. Tight scrolls of the window shades crowd the frame, the pulls dangle in the breeze from the window open to the damp smell of cinders; on the clothesline, white flags of our pillowcases, night creases, night odors, night stains scrubbed out. My hair is white, my mother’s dark, richly curled at the back of her neck. She sits so lightly on the edge of her chair and touches the back of my hand—I can’t stand the touch, ghost hand light as a fruit fly’s, tentative, unsure, papery, though she tries to comfort me and, as always, fails. “Sit with me a while,” she says, but I stay upright. She lifts a page, let’s it drop, smooths the fallen paper: “Such terrible things in this world.” I put my hand on her shoulder, making sure my touch is not too light, not too heavy. Dutiful, false. “You’ve come,” she says. Her bones are so small. How did she ever give birth to me? I am tired of her. I want never to have been a daughter, never to have been born into this cindery world. I want to stop, kneel, give up and let runners pass by. I want to be carried deeper and deeper into sleep.
MIRIAM LEVINE is the author of Saving Daylight, her fifth collection of poetry. Another collection, The Dark Opens, was chosen by Mark Doty for the Autumn House Poetry Prize. Other books include: Devotion, a memoir; In Paterson, a novel. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares. Levine, a fellow of the NEA and a grantee of the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, lives in Florida and New Hampshire. For more information about her work, please go to miriamlevine.com.
Artwork by David Dodd Lee.
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