The First Glaciers
This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 9 No. 2, "Festival: Celebrating Southern Literature." Find more from that issue here.
When the first glaciers melted and
the flood washed away the seas, mother,
you were there with your Bible
reading your first Corinthians,
lips silently moving as you turned
the wafer thin pages.
Your eyes were clear holes of transparent water
where I swam, unknowing,
until the fire.
The Baptist preacher would scream from the pulpit,
pounding a fevered fist,
red-faced as the Indians in my schoolbook
dancing half-naked around a fire.
(Mama I wanna go home
eat roast beef and green peas
and watch tv)
Berkeley nights were foggy and cold
and I had a lover
who threw bricks at cop cars and
made love through the afternoon.
We never talked of marriage, or children.
There were certain taboos.
We walked midnight streets on psychedelics
measuring time by the fading of colors.
A friend with scars on his inner wrists
would cook dinner in the morning -
beans in an iron pot on a two-burner stove.
The curtains stuck to the steamy kitchen windows
and we peeled them away from the glass
to watch the sun rise.
But I called you, mother, from pay phones at proper hours
across two time zones to the Bible Belt
and never woke you, never caught you at dinner.
Mostly we were still:
me in a glass booth on Telegraph Avenue
one hand pressed against the free ear
to shut out traffic and friends
while you let the Sunday dishes soak.