In the garden by the pond, outlines. Daughters and
mothers, the old woman says. Mothers and daughters.
Think of the crackle before a light bulb blows,
the darkened glass, afterimage of a girl,
pyrotechnics with cymbals of
light wheeling outwards.
Yet she'd been so unmarked,
the beauty, the desired. Her glitter-paint
pictures. Beans grown in a window box
then left to purple in western light.
The corn, the old woman says, looking past daughter
and mothering, is beginning to tassel.
The radishes pinked and swelled to the size of onions.
Overhead, grumble of a summer storm:
a hint of thunder as heat lightning
fingers the sky,
as the girl savors rumors of boys and of cars.
Before, she was always her mother's brimming
image. But how fragile glass can be.
Think seven years bad luck.
Now crazed. The sharp-edged reflections, ripped
and rippled. I hate you, love you,
hate you, won't invite you to my party,
and all the old nursery lines thrown into
this garden. But which? The one with silver
bells or with the lost lamb?
I didn't know it was going to be this hard,
the mother sighs. Warp and bubble.
How does a child become not image but vessel—
her two dimensions rounded to
an empty bottle afloat on a mirrored pond?
No message. A girl without context.
And when did she surge into not-mother?
So what now? Sort her as trash and try
Or seek a kind of rebirth
to a fresh, unblemished model?
And what is the model? Not bottle but stalk.
She's tall and still green with corn-tassel hair
and feet rooted in earth.
You give your boys wings, the old woman says.
But where have you hidden hers?
The boys, the cars, the rumors, the light....
O why other in place of mother?
Draw a magic circle. Color it with purple, and
keep her planted here. The corn may be
tasseling but it's not yet ripe.
Kernels swell as sky flashes. Wind twists
cornstalks. The girl is not
Dorothy, the tornado not headed for Oz.
In children's books, the old woman says, first kill
the mother. Mother-words: the tornado,
a spiraling I-told-you-so of noise.
So daughter must kill
or, at least, sting and stun, shake
roots and tear away. Still,
there's a brief letgodontletgo glance
from her clouded face as
she flees mother-censor, mother-law,
hateyouloveyouhateyou—green, yellow, fuchsia
circles—loveyou—pinwheeling through the dark.
So hate me, the daughter cries. Can't stay....
Storm-cracked images: the cars,
the boys, the rumors of light. Camera
obscura shows girl and earth turning.
Lightning and thunder shingle. The pond undams.
Furrows flood. Then girl, a mud-dark
silhouette against the sky, inhales and exhales.
Mother-voice deadened. Daughter-girl
aloft, as her soft silken hair flags out behind.
Copyright: All the poets whose poems appear in Marsh Hawk Review Fall 2010 retain individual copyrights to their works © 2010