“Where Do People Go, When You Close Your Eyes?” by Meghan Bell

Meghan Bell


Today, your personality is, I’m renovating
Again, punching out the wall of the bathroom
And installing a hot tub outside under the deck
You look down on the city from.
I wonder if I’m obsessed with dark and messy things
Because you kept the house so clean
You couldn’t even tell people had lived there
Like how Dad once wrestled me to the ground
To show me how to remove blackheads and then
In high school the boys voted me “best skin.”
Why are we so ashamed of being human, Mom?
You’re 125 pounds and talking about how
I inherited your pot belly again. You gifted
All the basement furniture to a friend, again
And I act unimpressed even though
I’m wearing your hand-me-down boots and
My apartment is filled with things you purged
After the divorce. You have hundreds of friends
And they’re all here for the party. You’re mixing
Gin and tonics at 12:01 p.m. with a woman who told you to
Pull the bootstraps up over your grief.
Your personality is, I have a new couch and if you
Press this button, a footrest slowly rolls out.
Your personality is half-hour vacation slideshows
From your trip to New Zealand with your new husband
Who will get the house and its perfect walls in your will.
Your personality is always smiling or running,
Arms stretched out at the top of a mountain
After a long hike. Your personality is decorating summer homes
With overpriced kitsch saying, This Is the Life
We Don’t Skinny Dip We Chunky Dunk
Life Is Better at The Beach. You’re always telling me
You just want me to be happy, but by that you mean
You want me to help you continue to believe I’m happy
Like how every Mother’s Day you asked for my brother
To stop beating me up, and for me to stop telling you about it.
I want to know, Mom, where do you think we go
When you close your eyes?
You’re always telling me to come over when
There’s a gap in your day-planner.
You’re always trying to set me up with
Your neighbors’ sons who went to business school.
You’re always warning me not to sing because
I inherited your voice. Did you know
I never liked my face until I left for university and learned
To smile in response to joy instead of a camera?
I became so much more beautiful that day, Mom,
I wish you could see it, the way my eyes light up
Like I might even be alive.

from Poets Respond
May 12, 2019


Meghan Bell: “This poem was written in response to Mother’s Day in late-stage capitalism. This is for my mom, who never understood why I couldn’t just smile.” (web)

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