Pockets, Long Enough


My mother used to say
if she ran out of money,
she would walk into the sea.
Just drive to the beach
and walk into the water,
keep walking until the ocean
swallowed her up. She made it
sound easy, like she wouldn’t
fight the waves to suck in
one more mouthful of air.
Maybe she thought she’d be
like Virginia Woolf and fill
her pockets with stones,
give herself no choice
but to be dragged under.
In the end, she found another
way to plummet, drowning
in mid-air, her pockets filled
with the money she had been
so afraid to lose.


Long Enough

My mom had been hanging
for fourteen hours when
the sanitation worker arrived
to gather the trash and found her
by the dumpster. Long enough
for the clothes the coroner returned
to us to smell like the raccoon who died
beneath my house, permeating each room
with a sick sweet stench long after
we finally found its body. Long enough,
but not as long as Virginia, whose body
bumped along the Ouse for three weeks,
pores soaking up river water, flesh billowing
and blue, each cell pregnant with her death.

Gayle BrandeisGayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House), the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement, Self Storage (Ballantine), and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young people, My Life with the Lincolns (Henry Holt), which won a Silver Nautilus Book Award. Gayle teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Antioch University, LA and lives in Riverside, CA, where she is serving a two-year appointment as Inlandia Literary Laureate.