Poem: Mother Would Have Liked You

By: Ruth Deming


Boston Market, crucible of the western world
stands as a watchtower on Welsh and York
as Evelyn and I enter the air-conditioned splendor
with joy and a sigh
A long line of hungry people snake around
the glass windows
she leans like a hungry pup
fat rump on the glass
her dachshund breasts pedaling under her shirt

Every manner of person has come to dine
in sodium splendor, our fingers twitching with
eagerness to tear apart a hen who had no home
only a cage and a duty to give her life for mankind

Unlike me,
a hen with a home,
my one hundred eggs
done with their duty
smoldering useless until death
do us part

Boston Market, established 1985,
the year after my nervous breakdown,
where I failed in my half-hearted attempt
to slay my mom,
what’s a daughter to do but apologize
and take her shopping on Saturdays
the cart she pushes as a cane
her tiny feet tramp tramping
in tooth-bright sneakers
maintaining her dignity
maintaining her stance
as we round the bend
in search for the perfect peach.

She will never know that
an artist famous in our town
presented me with an oil painting
of peaches, each one soft and biteable
as a woman’s breast
but in a manic moment
I thought it ugly and
threw it in the trash.

I was like that once.

Here at our table at
Boston Market
Evelyn pours gravy across her chicken breasts
tells me, not for the first time,
“Mother would have liked you, had
she lived” – it is my job to keep Evelyn
alive and do, her mom downed too many
gin and tonics while Evelyn was swimming
inside, an aquarium of booze
and came out all wrong, except for
beautiful black hair
she refuses to wash.

A tiny sneakered black child
enters with his parents
a proud American flag
stitched across his shirt.

How can they still
love America, I wonder,
after what we’ve done to them
after what we still do.

Don’t ask me to watch Mockingbird again
we swung them from trees
as if they were dolls not men
their acts of forgiveness are boundless
boundless as their love for chicken and for Jesus
You’d love Jesus too I’m imagine
if you ankles were shackled and bled

like Jesus.

Their African songs carried them
in the ark across the sea
akin to the Israeli soldiers
who singing, sling their dead in
upraised arms like that of a
man his bride
blood drops on the desert floor

I scan across York Road where a funeral
is in progress on the opposite corner
I am reminded of the funeral
of my drunkard father-in-law
whose mind back in Hot Springs died
before he did

Next morning, like Jesus, I arise
standing before the kitchen sink
on tiptoe looking out at my green backyard

I can only think of heaven as
seeing that first shaft of morning light
splashing against the backyard maple.

Categories: Poetry

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