This morning, I receive a message from my father as I go
down the stairs, out of my apartment and onto the train.
I have been here before, floundering in this word—
separation—an empty room with circles on the carpet
where furniture was, rectangles of whiter wall
where picture frames hung. I wonder who will keep
the photos, those silent photos of us fading in closet coffins.
My mother and father are dying in the corner of each other’s eyes.
Long ago, we grew permanent in our damage. This court order
is just the officiation of an already experienced breakage.
Today’s sadness begins in my stomach like hunger then goes
upwards, spreading like cotton in my throat.
I cannot stop violently arriving in myself. I cannot stop
inhabiting my terrible, irrevocable body made of them
for long enough to turn back and watch the ways
my family shattered like a vase on an unused dining table,
to face that this time when we shatter we turn to dust.
My father says a judge has approved the dissolution
of their marriage but this is no surprise to me—when I was born,
we had already dissolved, mother’s dragon fruit womb
pulsing with the severe mixture of her own Piscean water,
my father a stream of headstrong blood, me the oblong
girlchild solution. I get off the train to engage in the useless
motion of the day, while the rubble of their parting
collects in my body’s inevitable cathexes.
6 A.M. on Sundays, too,
my mother would rise with the sun humming
the short, silent hymn of preparation.
Her face pale and bare,
hair with none of its usual coiffing,
clothed in a terry-cloth bathrobe,
she entered the kitchen,
prepared coffee and breakfast
before she made her silent retreat.
When I awoke, the kitchen would be empty
except for the warm purring of the coffee pot,
my fruit and eggs set out for me,
those aromas like wandering spirits.
Sundays, too, I would eat alone.
Later, my mother emerged
in the full song of day with hair curled,
face covered and sealed.
My insecurities festered, wanting
comfort from this form which made me,
but receiving, instead, silence.
I could almost say I was raised
on that silence, the cavity of everything
a mother should say but doesn’t,
on searching for the small spaces of the kitchen
filled with the warmth of her scrubbed
and dawn-turned face.
ALL SHE WILL GIVE ME
We have been here many times before—
racing time back to the city on I-94
but never so weather-beaten or so joined.
I don’t look at my father, his voice
faltering, eyelashes bowing to tears. I hope
he can see it all clearly. The road, I mean.
Somehow level-headed, he contemplates,
pulls bits of dirt from the devastated
land of him and presents it in small sculptures.
I envy him. There is dirt in my palms
too loamy to form. I think to mention
that my mother gave me the wedding rings
in a labeled envelope, tossed them
into a large garbage bag with all she will give me
before she’s gone—the separated, the lacking,
the growing distant horizon of maternal
which I came from but will not go to.
I think to mention that I will keep the rings
safe though I don’t know how to. I may be
inconsistent but I’m not ready to let go
of anything. I think to mention but my throat
is hardening in monologues of mud. Instead,
I practice his careful art of sculpting. Instead,
I tell him to keep his eyes on the road.
DANA ALSAMSAM is a poet from Chicago who recently moved to Boston to begin her poetry MFA at Emerson College. She has had the honor of receiving mentorship from poet Mark Turcotte and editor of Poetry East, Richard Jones. Dana's poems have been published in Bedlam Publishing's LoudZoo, Hooligan Mag, Crook & Folly, Sun & Sandstone, and After Hours Chicago. When she is not writing poems, Dana is dancing, choreographing or cooking delectable vegan dishes.