Kate E. Schultz
after Gwendolyn Brooks’ “the mother”
The rain soaks me like the eight-dollar
glass of craft beer I just poured
over the prematurely balding head
of my friend’s friend, in response
to his pro-life rant– never discuss
religion or politics, or both,
with near-strangers– then left
before I could get kicked out. Fucker.
He doesn’t know, never saw your mother–
my once-beloved – sweat like a child’s first fever,
her eyes glassed over with frightened confusion;
doesn’t know about the useless
heavy-flow maxipads I bought –
three different brands, I didn’t know
which was best – none of them, turns out,
stopped her from staining the bedsheets.
Were there any traces of you left
in her blood? What fluttered through my mind
as I helped her to the car, as we returned
to the hospital, was the memory
of that scene from Dirty Dancing with –
what’s her name?– meringue dancer, contorted
on her dormitory bed at the resort,
clutching her abdomen; or hiding in the kitchen,
crying alone. But this is the 2000s;
there was no need for an unlicensed hack
or a coat-hanger. We thought we were doing it right,
if there is such a thing.
In the bathroom your mother and I used to share
there’s no longer any hint of her
rose-scented soap, no longer any bright-colored
extra-thick towels draped over the rod.
There was never, will never be
any pink-bottled baby shampoo
so your eyes wouldn’t sting if the lather dripped.
In the bedroom, in the bed she and I no longer share,
I cover myself with the sheets, the set purchased
after she moved out. Those stained sheets,
our unspoken indecision – what to do
with what might contain the only traces of you,
the only possible tangible mark left?
Try to clean them? Discard them like we did
with the life we’d made?
Fucker. He never saw your mother, sitting wilted
in a hospital gown, gazing down, legs dangling
over the side of the exam room table, her baby blue
toenail polish beginning to chip. It’s true,
though he’d argue the point, I loved you,
loved you, though we never met;
but you must understand
I loved your mother more, and for that
I can’t be sorry.
Kate E. Schultz earned her MA from Ohio University, where she also served as Assistant Editor of New Ohio Review. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Bayou Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Critical Read, and others. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, and can be found at https://www.kateelizabethschultz.com/ .