96

How do you tell
A dead woman
Her daughter is dead?

Buried in Binghamton, West Virginia and Pennsylvania
It’s Monday again, and her daughter is dead,
We eat rice cakes in the kitchen,
I’ll be your daughter.

Walter’s dead, Walter is dead,
To the noose!
Don’t you wish you were dead,
Baby? You don’t get to pick your mama
Or your daddy, and I cry to think about it.

You don’t even know me, baby. Nobody knows you
And you can’t know me either, her fish mouth,
Red lips kissing orange juice, just like the carton
I remember mom poured on dad’s head in ’96.

Even if Walter is dead, the daughter is dead,
I could still be your daughter, I don’t want
To live in Arizona, I smell apple cinnamon
Rice cakes in her kitchen, her teeth rifle
The cakes, loud as sirens in Arizona in ’96 when
Dad took me there and ate up at least three thousand
Of someone else’s money.

You can’t replace Walter or my daughter,
Baby, I wish you’d stop bothering me.
Her eyes are glossed over like a cheap marble
All fucked up, in hell, do they only let you eat
Rice?

They don’t let the bad poets in hell,
God likes the sonnets, dull sublunary lover’s love,
A spot for seuss, the rhyming sounds
Like an angel singing,
Maybe, she’s crying
In my kitchen, knowing her daughter is dead, knowing
She’s dead, too, a noose around her neck, no, it’s a big one,
Just too old to keep it going for me,
Her eyes as bright as her box dye hair, the joking voice,
a gesture I love steamrolled me, her skin waxed out, only her
Mouth left, last words? She says
Winter will keep her warm
in hell.

Ruth Comes To Me (in a dream)

She always does.
Long red hair like the sun or crayon blood moon,
Eyes milked over shaking like a tea kettle, a jacket made out of fish
scales, eyes wider than any moon you’ve ever seen, I promise.

She says she comes to my dreams
Most when I am trapped inside my home
A marble trying to fit
The outside world in,
I want to call her mama – thinking she’d understand, I wouldn’t
Put my head in the oven, but America put me inside now.

Mama, the world is a wound
And you saw it always saw it, and I feel
Too scared now that I’ve seen it too.

Ruth is smiling now as big as the sky, big teeth next to the sun, her
Voice louder than the tv, but I can’t hear.

Her blood moon hair is wrapped around me, pulling me
Up to the sky, I don’t want to go to the sun, I say. I cry like a baby.

Mama twists me out of her longest hair, and places me in her hands,
Still young, painted red fingernails, she’s the red woman now.

Things will be different, her voice is a whisper now, it’s our
Secret, me and mama.

Now I sit alone in my rented apartment. The cat on my lap,
No victory on tv, just sadness like mama sad, no more laughing kids
outside, a galaxy broke but we did it to our selves, but I think of
Mama, I think mama was right,
When the sun dies,
We will all become one.