MY MOTHER IS STILL ALIVE

My mother taught me to worship beauty
And she hit me on the back of the legs with a shoe tree
My mother stirred up the dark
with her cigarette, loops of embers, we wrote my name
One time I came home and she was drunk and stirring
a soup with nothing but old water in it

My mother held me up so I could see
the tiptop of the tree at Rockefeller Center
She hissed at my friend Nancy and called her “That Snake”
My mother gave me my own section of the garden
Once I cried and kicked all the pictures off the wall and she never came

A big cat killed my kitten and she wouldn’t get me another
In the middle of the night she stood on a chair, painting
over the monster on my ceiling
She wrestled me and ripped out my new earrings
“The dark,” she used to say, “is kind to tired people.”

My mother didn’t punish me for stealing all her money
Once she hired police to watch the house so I wouldn’t fuck
“I want life on any terms at all,” is what she told me
A turkey sat in the oven for over six months

My mother called at three a.m. to wish me A Happy Solstice
While I had seizures she did a crossword puzzle, “to stay calm . . . ”
She let me stay up late to watch KIDNAPPED
Once she dragged me into the library by my hair

She left the house in clouds of lavender
I ran away and came back — there was nowhere to go
Now I live by myself, I’ve had many lovers
I fall asleep with the lights on; at least I’m in bed

My mother believes God is merciful
I think he is too, and inexplicable
My mother yells at the Devil, I bow to him
My mother is still alive and so am I