Poetry Supplement Summer 1999, Volume 17.0
Heather Sellers earned her PhD in American Literature and Writing at the Florida State University in 1992. Recent work appears in Five Points, The Sun, and The New Virginia Review. Her poetry manuscript, completed while in residence at Hawthornden, Scotland, is circulating. She teaches at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
My Mother and Her Egg
When my mother tucked
me, the egg, from her left
ovary, inside of her she
was 35 years old. She felt it.
She set her mind to replastering
every room inside her house
white over white over white,
all spring, all summer. Then she
set to squirting down the outsides
of the pink stucco Florida bungalow,
to keep mildew from gaining
a foothold. She watered everything.
Me the tiny fish inside her I
loved the water, the pressure,
the spray. I said helpful things.
You missed a spot. She wanted
her little fish out, wanted her little fish in.
Her egg could break up, evaporate,
could wash away. And she
she sprayed and washed and
soaked and hosed down and blasted.
I grew fins and fingers. She
took up the bicycle. She biked
across Florida's mid-section; her
path made a seatbelt
across the wide flat belly of
the state. She could ride right
into the sky and not even
notice the altitude shift. As
she biked, fall fell, her mind blanked.
In her bedroom in a paper
box was a new white vinyl purse
with its own wallet, with a secret
zip compartment inside the change
pouch. After Labor Day.
My mother watched the world
wrap itself tightly and tighter:
the moon we were visiting, the
miniskirts scooting, up, up,
Oswald shot, pop-tops, vodkatinis,
a new Pope, and blister
packs. All these ways
they had of making
you come home with 36 when
you wanted 3 or maybe just
1. Or maybe you didn't want 1,
anything at all. Everything
had something waiting
inside these days.
On her blue bicycle, 9
mos and 16 days
pregnant, she circled
Lake Marsha Shores
Homes in the 20s! waving
at her detractors, the calm stolid
soda-drinking women, their third round
of babies naked and sweating in rubber
tubs and pens and diddie
corrals on the cyanide lawns.
"You're exerting! Honey. Stop,
stop it! Stop!" They said
she was making them all
hotter. She sent them packing
with her palm. She knew not
to try to explain. My mom knew
how to keep going. She had her system
down, like Telstar, like carbonation, like Venus
(no magnetic field!), like Cleopatra, like lightning.
Like Liz Taylor. Like Ike.
She had a cool dry baby shock
inside, an electric fish, a life
crackling, a baby nearly not born.
That night, after hours of
riding waves of heat, my mom
took her stomach to the shore
of Lake Marsha. She let her
striped front hang over the water.
She was a bathysphere, a submarine, a cave,
A pear. Two people in one.
She didn't want to be induced
in the morning. She says she
asked me to please come along.
I don't remember it that way.
When at the lake she sensed
that what was in was out and out was in—
she looked at that fat moon and she went in.
I'm really ready, I said.
While other women were
screaming on the gurneys
all along the predelivery
queue on the fifth floor of Orange
Memorial Hospital, my mother held
everything in she was
strong, she was from
Wisconsin, she knew the
value of things. And her baby
was strong and together
we would whisper.
Walking One Fall With A Mother
The park on the corner of 22nd and Prospect,
the park bordered by the toy factory, it's called
the old park, the fox park, and the wise park.
I walk there with a mother who
lost her baby in water. We walk every
Friday all through fall and one day we meet
a boy, a boy with the name of her baby boy.
The yellow maples, they are giant yes there coulds.
These are the grey cold days and this mother whispers. We rest
on a cold iron bench, by a purple mitten, a tiny blot of hand by our feet.
Her baby's grave is four streets over and two streets down.
In the central cemetery, piney and dark. Little birds,
little grace notes on the graves of the babies—suddenly it seems
there are so many. His common name is not yet
engraved on a headstone. It takes months.
That's not where we walk.
The leaves are staying around a long time
this year, she says.
In some ways she will never be right
again. In some ways there is always sun
underneath these yellow leaves. In the
same way tiny crimes are always well-lit.
In the same way there is a kingdom with money
trees, a kingdom where all the battles
are for love and clean groundwater.
I get the scent of park and the greys of the cemetery
We walk the long fall. Leaves are falling
down. They are crunching and willing,
the leaves, they'd all drop right now.
But the trees have no desire,
no want, no little cloaks and hats needing
washing. Dinner was ready a thousand
years ago. The trees are calm and
stupid; their children are always in sight,
and thriving. They're keeping their leaves. Or not.
A yellow tree cannot drown in water, can't pray.
The priest says to us: walk simply
in circles, be discreet. There is no use
in trying to say there was a reason.
There is one tree in that park on Prospect
still completely green, not one yellow leaf,
not one hint of readiness. A fully green
maple, a squat ma on the corner.
She is like a word we don't use anymore.