by Kelle Groom
One mother said she was irritated, wondering what her family
would do for Mother’s Day. She was holding another woman’s baby,
said she had two children, two & eight years old. I wanted to hold
the baby, to ask, but all I could do was shake my hair to make him
laugh, always afraid that the sweetness of holding will break me
into glass, shattering away in thin shards, tinkling, or that in asking,
the mother will see how desperately I need to hold her child, & she’ll
fear me, turn away like I did from the melted girl, burned
as a baby in a fire over eighty percent of her body, homeless
now, epileptic, in her early 20s, wisps of hair like on an old
neglected baby doll, brave in her jean jacket, pushing open the door.
It was almost Thanksgiving, & she’d bitten her tongue so badly,
she hadn’t eaten for three days. When I asked how are you,
perfunctorily, she said she was scared to live alone, afraid
of her tongue, swallowing. Leaning on the water-stained wallpaper
she said, can I talk to you? Her name was a part of a song, & she started
to cry when I began to listen, she asked, can’t we go somewhere?
A room a place to talk? But I had a meeting down the hall,
I was administration, & turned away, her skin made into rivers,
the way a candle melts, her whole life burning like some far off planet.