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Elisabeth Adwin Edwards

The Way I Learn To Take It
Like A Girl

begins in the kitchen
with him

curling back a beer-
can pull-tab—

the tin clit wears
a ring he fingers

and drops into garbage—
the crack-hiss

rips down the hall.
My mother stops

breathing. Hitting her
is dread

like a wave
of nausea. Winter

Sunday morning
playing out like so:

the dog laps from a bowl
my soggy Raisin Bran,

licks around the raisins
she dislikes. The sponge

cake in the oven
rises up

over the pan's fat lip
then exhales down

to a reasonable size,
as Mother

quietly hauls in logs
for the wood-stove

despite her bad back.
I carry my Tender

Love by a leg
as she attempts

to recover from wounds
regularly inflicted

by blue ball-
point pens.

And as day deepens
into afternoon,

his movie ended, six-pack
finished, my father

peers out of the dark
bar of his mind,

spies his work week
gathering like a shadow

between the pines.

An icicle drops
from the frozen gutter

impaling the snow
below, the snow

receiving the full length of it
without a sound.

Finality Dream

I steal my dying mother
from her bed—

she wants to go to the beach so I strap
all 94 pounds of her

to my spine with bungee cords
and carry her as a backpack,

her broken back like an accident
arching over

my own, her bones
dangling from her nightie.

We walk the shoulders
of the 110 to the 10,

past screaming cars, Mack trucks,
tour buses like opportunities

that pass so fast
we don't know we've missed them.

We breathe invisible
magnetite nanoparticles,

and my mother's curled fingers tally
each lone shoe. She is thinking

of lost children,
of the inside of the closet

where she was once locked,
a closet being where most shoes

live in pairs, children
alone. I step over

black adders of tire, coiled
cautionary tape. I fear

my face will always
tilt downward towards

roads. We exit an off-ramp
and continue on, passing

under oak trees
gibbeting their shadows,

the ocean's brininess
invading the breeze.

When we arrive at the beach,
I get down on all fours

like a crab and Mother
becomes the carapace.

Her legs fall to each
side, drag though the sand.

I can't tell if she's moaning
with pleasure or if

her feet are burning. Perhaps
it's both. Coming towards us

is a broad, handsome man
walking a toy poodle

that suddenly stops to lick
at a half-melted rainbow-

colored popsicle,
the man's t-shirt boasting

Pain Is Only Weakness
Leaving The Body.

Mother is mouthing
something to the clouds

as I keep crawling
to the sea.


I am always driving to. Or away from.
Or I am always entering buildings. Every button I touch
or wave at
is meant to replace some part of me. Occasionally,
while shopping, I bump into a person I barely know,
we talk and this brightens the day
as if I'd purchased a bundle of pert flowers
in harvest colors. My real friendships
have become transactional.
I buy a bottle of wine for a friend
I see once a year at a party. I buy
some cheese and fig jam
to have on hand for guests
who won't end up stopping by. He, she or they
will text their emoticon-embellished regrets. In my mind,
there's a row of dark jars, bloody and prim.
Everything glass and ominous, everything
crackable. Sometimes I swear the botoxed stars
on the covers of fashion magazines
look askance at me when I pass them
in an aisle. I do strive for the harmonious
disorder of my hair, I hate the effort,
I hate how it is always one or the other.
Every year another shrub dies
in the lingering garden of our neighbor.
Last year was the last pyracantha. And so
I'm bereft of the cedar
waxwings dizzy and drunk
careening against the closed window of my life.
I've an uncanny knack
for predicting betrayals. I can't
keep pace with the ever-changing dosing schedule
of my mother's medications. I'd relish
another beer in a pretty bottle. It'd be fun
to blow proverbs into its belly
when it's empty. I'd like to feel that hum,
then hurl it into my other neighbor's driveway,
the one who runs his truck at night, watch the shards
scatter like stars. At night, I lie awake
wondering which memories
my mattress will choose to remember.
When I clutch the steering wheel on the freeway,
I fret about not knowing exactly when
I should move into the far right lane
for my exit. I'm not sure if my daughter
brushed her teeth well enough this morning.
Or if my dad will die before he calls me.
I can't guess the odds of that plastic shopping bag,
color of an octopus,
the one now harmlessly oscillating in the wind,
filling with hatred and shooting
straight toward my windshield
to blind me,
can't predict
the pattern of the windshield shatter.

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