|excerpt from Maria Mazziotti Gillan: Greatest Hits 1972-2002|
At thirteen, I screamed,
drinking your coffee from a saucer.
Your startled eyes darkened with shame.
You, one dead leg dragging,
counting your night-shift hours,
you, smiling past yellowed,gaping teeth,
you, mixing the eggnog for me yourself
in a fat dime store cup,
how I betrayed you,
over and over, ashamed of your broken tongue,
how I laughed, savage and innocent,
at your mutilations.
Today, my son shouts,
“Don’t tell anyone you’re my mother,”
hunching down in the car
so the other boys won’t see us together.
Daddy, are you laughing?
Oh, how things turn full circle,
my own words coming back
to slap my face.
I was sixteen when you called one night from your work.
I called you “dear,”
loving you in that moment
past all the barriers of the heart.
You called again every night for a week.
I never said it again.
I wish I could say it now.
Dear, my Dear,
with your twisted tongue,
I did not understand you
dragging your burden of love.
by Maria Mazziotti Gillan
from Where I Come From (Essential Poets Series 64)
Maria's Official Site is at MariaGillan.com. Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.