My Mother’s Skull is Opened the First Timepost-surgery scan
a gray sea around
a dark emptiness
hole where tumor lodged
size of a child’s fist
shoving out frontal
lobe tissue where lives
higher level cog-
no way to excise
no matter standard
of care or candles
lit at Saint Jude’s shrine
my mother’s devout
she touches her beads
still takes the wafer
wears lipstick with her
headband of staples
Bird WatchingThe day after my mother died,
I went to find the Indigo Buntings
and I’m sure one lit
in the branches ahead
but I suck at binoculars.
Over here my mother said.
She was a crow.
Figure out how to see me.
Then she cawed four times,
her eyes drops of ink,
her feathers black and flat
like what? Knives? A night lake?
Who gives a shit.
I don’t want poetry now.
I’d selected the oak casket,
helped pick her coffin clothes
through Facetime. Did she
need shoes? A bra? Why
the hell would the dead need bras,
I thought, but said bring it in case.
I attended the virtual burial,
if one can say it is “attending”
to sit and weep before a screen
where in another, unopened tab
a man on an American street
holds a sign that says
Sacrifice the Weak
City Park, New Orleans, Spring 2020I wanted the night heron to mean something.
I passed it each morning, and it stared
at me with its jeweled eye as if it knew.
I wanted it to be a spirit to guide or comfort.
To warn, even. Turns out it hangs around the bridge
because of the Cottonmouth nursery
woven into the bayou’s fallen bamboo.
It’s there to stalk the hatchlings.
What did I seek wandering the wilds of a city
where cattle egrets huddle in neglected weeds,
beside the I-10 where the city’s people
were left to thirst as they watched
floodwaters swallow their shotgun houses?
As I walk I remember myself,
someone’s daughter in the world,
rambling off in a faraway town, the language
I skirted rich and impenetrable as the shadows.
What has happened happened.
Now gorgeous, invasive flowers keel over
above my head, the air roiling
with cobalt dragonflies.
The day tries to go, but light
keeps smashing down onto earth.
The breeze is delicate as my mother’s skin.
Pandemic Funeral: A DuplexThe day my mother’s buried,
light throws itself against the earth.
Light throws itself against the earth,
a bird against a window.
Like birds in a window,
my family’s in the screen.
My family inside a screen
for her Facebook funeral.
In a Facebook funeral,
siblings sit a pew apart.
All my siblings pulled apart.
My father’s masked and small.
My father, masked: a small
animal from this distance.
A distant animal,
I watch the digital spectacle.
A strange spectacle: a digital burial—
Oh and there’re the gravediggers.
Quit that shovel men quit
that wet plot where cannot be
that she’s not here, that I’m not there.
My mother. What is this plot? It cannot be.
Andy Young is the author of four chapbooks, including John Swenson Dynamicron, recently out from Dancing Girl Press, and a full-length poetry collection, All Night It Is Morning (Diálogos Press, 2014). She teaches at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Her work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Southern Review, Pank, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and The Cortland Review. Her translations, with Khaled Hegazzi, are featured in the Norton Anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond. The poem “My Mother’s Skull is Opened the First Time” is the runner up in the 2020 Peauxdunque Review Music and Writing Competition <https://peauxdunquereview.com/2020-words-and-music-writing-competition-results/>.
Paintings by Moira J. Saucer Tweets: @MJSEyesOpened
Banner: After Great Pain
2nd Painting: Respite, Safe Landing
3rd Painting: Trilogy, in meditation, in grief: firmament, terra firma, waters
The three paintings are a series of original pastel paintings on watercolor paper created collaboratively with Andy Young for her poem cycle.