July 5, 2008

Judith Harris

THE FACTS

Whenever my mother got dressed, or undressed,
she would turn her back to me,
arms fumbling behind her to catch the hook,
the loud spank of her nylon straps,
midriff bulge branded in by the ghost of spandex.
When they first removed her breast,
she tried to fill the empty cup with cotton the way
my junior high school friends stuffed falsies
to appear more stacked,
but it didn’t work–she felt–unnatural–
and so they did the reconstruction
by sawing off her other breast.
I never saw them, new or old,
or planted with the silicone jellyfish.
For thirty years, she kept them covered,
even when the nurses lifted her up onto the potty,
or bathed her shingled skin,
but in the darkness of her bedroom,
lit by a nightlight,
I saw her shimmy into
her blue, daffodil nightgown,
quiet as an egg shell,
and then she spun, frank, reborn,
in her wrinkling, baby flesh to meet me
directly with her eyes,
no less than a vision of heaven or hell
taking its secret fire from the stars
too awful, or too beautiful, to be seen.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007