May 18, 2012

Devika Brandt


At 86 Dad wants a new silver Mercury with heated seats.
Mom wants whatever Dad wants. We’re on the phone,
and I’m scrubbing the kitchen floor with my headset
on, scratching at the black sap marks that stick and
spread before finally letting go. We’re all tired of talking.
So I don’t ask them about moving closer to their kids;
I don’t mention the nurse they fired; I don’t say I think
they’re making a mistake. I breathe hard and tackle
a tough wad of sap. They tell me how cold it is in Las Vegas
in the winter; how the mountains turn purple in their rise
toward the sky. I don’t ask them if they’re eating. I keep
myself from mentioning their many medications. They
want me to love them; they want me to leave them alone.
They want to fumble along the walls of their stucco
house until one falls down, cheek to the cool tile
of the floor, bones so heavy, joints stiff, life blood
thick and unwilling. I hope the other one will lie down too,
pull an afghan over them, the one with squares her mother
made. I hope in the accumulating heat of the desert
they will gasp into each other’s arms and give themselves
away. I hope they can do it without breaking. I hope
they can do it in the clean sweet heat of the day, an open
mouthed entry, the last ripe fruits of breath released.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention

Rattle Logo

December 1, 2010

Devika Brandt


Some Japanese send their dead to the mountains
where they can be spoken to, they keep a house altar
as interpreter, a place for conversation, to ask advice,
or lay out troubles. Painted bowls brim with rice

as compensation. My mother’s ashes are capped,
stored in a porcelain urn inside a plastic box
that’s sealed, tight, against investigation.
My brother and I want to take some out, to keep

our own stash, but it’s illegal to parcel out your mother.
Only the mortician can scoop her, not family. Perhaps
we are too close to touch, who knows which body part
might smudge beneath the fingertips. So intimate

to separate her pieces. The tulips near her picture
begin their forward lean. They have opened wide
in the warm room, one she only sat in once, edging
ever closer to the fire where she pulled at the swollen joints

of her fingers. Even that day, as we spoke, we continued
to misunderstand. Today I mailed her tea towels
to someone else’s mother, some with birds stitched on them,
their colors the deep green of hills when you see them from far away.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010


Devika Brandt: “The death of my mother was a brutal poem, one that I write again and again as I try to make sense of that experience. I write my poems to honor our tenuous and fragile hold on life.”

Rattle Logo