My mother’s colander: metal
with small, heart-shaped mouths—
It was an old thing, probably
my grandmother’s before, just like
that blueberry bush in our backyard,
planted 50-odd-years ago, a natural
inheritance. We never used
the colander except when picking
blueberries, and even that became a hobby
my parents left for their aging relatives
and home repairs, leaving me
every summer to fill it
with as many berries as I could save—
And still! All those ripe
berries left unpicked! How thrilled
all the deer must have been when
my mother came home with store-
bought blueberries: soft berries,
berries less blue. I don’t remember
the excuses she gave me.
Something like: It doesn’t matter, really—
they weren’t that much, all the while
washing them in the sink. In her hands,
the berries were spotless: no twigs, bird
shit, dirt or spider webs. The berries
she bought were farmed and pre-washed,
but she continued to run water over them,
letting some slip between her fingers, down the drain,
where no birds nor deer could get to them.
Organ Stop Pizza, Mesa, AZ
What is it about dim-lit pizzerias
that makes me want to crawl under the table,
hug my knees and pray for the dead?
Maybe it’s the Tiffany lights, the framed
and faded movie posters, or the smell
of an inadequate salad bar,
the black-letter board with yellow words
that remind us we haven’t always had
so many choices to order from;
and then comes that organ music—
the Mighty Wurlitzer—playing the fugue
my father used when showing off
his first subwoofer home theater,
and it’s those kind of songs you can never
dissociate from their point of origin,
they are self-contained time machines,
and right now I am in 1991,
being born again. Unlike my father’s rec room,
this hall shakes and my chest is compelled
to move. There’s something in the act
of music, something about organs:
is it the memory of church? Or Disneyland
that I remember? To think there was
an era of themed pizzerias—to think
we are inhabiting the body of a survivor.
This room is—we are all one
big breathing instrument: and right now,
the man up front plays the national anthem,
dropping a giant flag from the ceiling,
and some people stand up, putting down
their pizza but all I can think about
is whether I will be able to sleep tonight,
or if the shaking song inside me
will continue to loop on encore
as an all-night show.
I Go Into the McDonald’s Bathroom
to wash my hands, only to find the sink
covered like a woman’s private vanity:
blush, foundation, toothbrush and toothpaste,
a woman bent over it all in a zip-up green blazer.
She looks normal enough: her hair grey
and thin, pulled back into a tight ponytail.
But when she opens her mouth I see
the vacancy where her front teeth should be.
I apologize for bothering her but she insists
I wash my hands. She compliments my mint
jacket: a gift from my mother. I point down
at my slippers and tell her, I wear what’s comfortable.
The woman laughs, and reaches to embrace me.
My mother would never hug someone like her.
No—my mother might hug someone like her,
but then would make a point to wash her hands
and change her clothes once she got home.
I like to think I’m better than my mother:
I gather the woman in my arms at first
like a friend. When I pull in, my arms
are stiff, I’m careful to not let my lips graze
against her shoulder. She tells me her name is Lynn.
She says, You’re young, I can tell by your face.
I want to go eat my Chicken McNuggets.
I prop the door with my foot, and her voice
gets loud: I just want to talk to you, she says.
I go to my husband, tell him to make our order
to-go. From the counter, I can hear Lynn, engaging
new bathroom-goers: a woman and her young
daughter. My husband looks at me, confused,
and I nudge him, Just do it. This is what my mother
would’ve done. I pump myself some ketchup
in a paper cup, my hands shaking. In the car,
I won’t eat until we get home and I can wash
my hands. It’s amazing, really—these gifts
our mothers leave, unwanted, inside us.