A mother holding the hand of a newborn baby.

My mother likes to tell me with shame
how she shat the birth table. I was her
second or eighth embarrassment that day
she splayed like a wounded warrior,
flushed me from the place she swore
she’d never touch. She knew she’d work
me out or die. Then she got ahold of me—my ring of red hair,
red as a garnet yam, my skin, that famous alabaster.
I think she might have hated her pleasure
when I was at her breasts
like a pink-lipped kitty, so pretty,
she said, barren ladies itched to steal me.
Well, I have a hard time believing
I was très gorgeous, but that’s what she’d see
everywhere—a glandular longing for me.
Maybe she felt that fear-come-shame
dogs have when they’re stuck back to back,
screwed by their genitals—predator-
turned-prey from pure want—her love, so honied,
she felt unarmed, like a fool, swaddling
a sweetie pie in the wilderness
when she should be kicking ass.
Now she’s older than an English queen, crispy
as a piece of potpourri.
There’s a dead halo ‘round her face. For the first time,
she weeps, says she always loved me, doesn’t understand why
she hoarded whips, smeared
scat on my lips, made me place my palms
on the tiled floor, sniffed and inspected my naked junk,
stuck different rods and cones in.
She’s agonized, of course, when I suggest perversion
was her motive, but now I think it wasn’t pleasure
she was after, but rather,
release from the terrible fear
of loving me so much.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao, used and adapted under CC.