mother
— lily goldberg

It’s all circling back to something

I can’t name – unpinnable hypnotisms,

raptures. My mother, adding salt

to the stove water to delay its boil.

When I was seven, I was left in the ball pit at IKEA

while she surveyed impossible-to-pronounce nightstands.

Now, I am seventeen and waiting patiently for her return.

Time passes and passes back. Fakes a pass, passes through

my teeth like a whistle, through my abdomen

like a pent-up ghost. It was six hours

or sixty in that ballpit, watching the Lost Boys scramble

up their sycamore and screw with Tinkerbell.

When Peter Pan ended, Dumbo clicked on.

He tripped over his ears so many times and his own mother

got hauled away in a circus carriage.

When Dumbo ended and Cinderella 2 clicked on,

I made my break for the twin bed with the mesh canopy

I’d always wanted. They found me, quilted,

asking every shopping cart are you my

 

horsepower

I’ve invented too much

for you to tell me now

how it really was: gear teeth, car parts.

A body like oil, bellying under the front

wheel. Shimmying like a tomcat. Swagger

like a palomino. Sixteen, you shake your

grease, try your English syllables

on Sacramento, Divisadero, words once

soft as husks, maize unraveled on the fingernail’s split.

Before the tar heat, chain link, spitting

asphalt from your gums by the basketball court.

Before the busted lip, mother tongue

swollen as a burial mound.

Before she died, before your father and

your half-sister, half-brother, before

you arrived like Christ

on the weekends, shotgunned me 150

around the cul-de-sac until my basketball

sagged like loose skin. Downed a martini and

licked your wounds on the patio. I cracked my neck

upstairs and found a faded bookmark of Saint Anthony

pressed into page 57 of the Boxcar Children you’d bought

me from the yard sale..

What I’m missing now, it won’t help to find –

you seal-slicked, motor-oiled,

flinching at a closet full of belts.

 

 

Lily Goldberg is a recently legal poet and aspiring Jeopardy contestant from New York City. A graduate of the Iowa Young Writers Studio and the Adroit Journal Summer Writing Mentorship, she was a semifinalist for the 2017 Smith College Poetry Prize and received Third Prize in the City University of New York High School Poetry Prize. When she's not writing, you can find her watching videos of baby goats, practicing guitar, or wondering whether or not she has what it takes to become America's Next Top Model.