“When Your Mother Asks if You’re Seeing Anyone and No Longer Means a Therapist” by Cindy King

Cindy King


It’s tough to find a cardiologist who dates
patients from the Ward of Cracked Hearts, but
there’s always the bariatric surgeon
who thinks you could drop a few pounds. If it’s too late
for the death row inmate, try the child predator, you too
could date the would-be senator, or even the President of the United States.
If you can’t have the priest, don’t give up.
You too could fall for the charismatic cult leader. You too
could try the celibate polygamist. Admittedly,
you’d have to share, and you wouldn’t know for sure
if you’re actually dating, or whether you’d ever “consummate,”
but who’s in it for that kind of thing anyway, unless,
of course, you’d finally give me a grandchild.
You didn’t spend years in braces only to settle
for a dental assistant, did you?
We didn’t correct your overbite just so you could eat
your dinners alone. It took sacrifice to cultivate your eligibility, years
of home perms and hand-me-downs, decades of clearance rack cosmetics.
And yet the people you called friends were privileged
enough to discover your brain and not your body. BTW, did
you see that profile pic of the head floating in a jar?
Though I’m not sure if it’s really enough to love.
But love you will as everyone does
toward infinite grace, the axe
into the olive branch, verisimilitude
to abstraction, even the sarcophagus toward mummy dust,
the intellect to its dementia. And I will support you as the mantle
above the fireplace supports the little box, house
to your spouse’s ashes.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Cindy King: “I wish I didn’t have to write this poem. Tom’s dead. He was struck and killed by a 22-year-old drunk driver. That’s true. What isn’t? The way the poem characterizes my mother (though I hope to God she never reads it). She does, in fact, occasionally ask if I’m seeing anyone, but she actually means a therapist. And while I gave up on therapy—I briefly saw a grief counselor from the city’s trauma services—I continue to write poems. Poetry, I guess you could say, has been a constant in my life. However, I don’t find writing it to be particularly therapeutic. I’m not sure if I can describe how the sudden loss of your partner—the horror, loneliness, absurdity of it all—changes one’s writing. Only that it does. The fact of it is here, everywhere, in everything I do.”

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