As a refuge, as a threat, as a place to live
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In my dreams my mother keeps walking out of the kitchen singing,
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
She never sings past the first verse.
Last night I dreamed I was back at the house —
every light on when I arrived. My mother, forgetting
she was dead, smiled, said she was fine, everything
was fine. At family gatherings — weddings, baptisms —
my mother would look around, sort of stunned,
and say: There’re so many of you! As if
we’d arrived from someplace other than her
own body, a country foreign to her. My mother
is no longer flesh or breath. She’s not a thing
anymore. Is she with God?
Some days I believe, some days I don’t.
Centuries ago, in a church in Europe,
someone carved God Help Us into a pew.
Plague years. Sometimes my God is so big,
I wonder what’s the use. Divinity
diluted into nothingness. My mother
tried to stop drinking. I stopped, she told me once.
Like you’d stop a dryer or a washing machine.
We were standing in Blackwater Falls Gift Shop,
looking at coffee mugs printed with maps.
West Virginia on one side, waterfalls on the other.
One mug had a gold star to mark the visitor center.
You Are Here, it said on a travel mug. Here and
not here. How do you name what isn’t here?
She tried to stop. And didn’t.