Pull out my stopper. I want to unravel
into DNA, scan the strands
through my hands, run my fingers
over nucleotide pairs, seeking answers
to a question you will never give me.
Spool me up. I want to take off my clothes
and lie in naked memory of cities that are not New York,
glittering like stars in the ink-spilled night sky, or lights
in the mountains just outside my grasp.
This poem is wrong and I don’t like it,
you tell me, like you are the expert
on me. Once, I dreamt I was a supernova, exploding
in a ball of radiation, and I didn’t panic
myself awake that morning.
Our atoms all come from one place
but despite your protestations
that doesn’t make us the same. I wrote
your favorite poem when I was eight
and you put it on the fridge like a badge,
a commendation saying ‘I am a good mother.’
“Just a little more,” you ask me,
arms outstretched. Outside
rain spatters and thunder rumbles
though the curtain with its jagged zags
like lightning. When you strike
you split me whole; head, chest, and heart.
The bathroom light is gauzy
like a movie. You brush my hair
and pin it back. You brush
your hair and pin it back.
You give me a blouse, rim my eyes
in brown, step me doublehanded
into heels. Sculpt my features, run thumbs
over porcelain cheekbones, pat on blush.
If lightning strikes us,
will our flesh melt like plastic?
The dolls are tucked away
now, back in their perfect places
as I pack a bag. “Don’t go,”
you tell me. “Stay.
Just a little more.”
Under your fingers I am soft,
She wants to be born right
so she invents a new mother
without the claws, the teeth.
She performs plastic surgery,
jabs her mother with the forceps,
says “stop telling me where it hurts.”
She pares off the beast,
tucks traits into boxes, cuts away
the ghastly gristle with a scalpel,
hooks open the ribcage to get at the heart
of the problem.
The woman she makes is, of course, a lie,
not her mother, not real,
and no amount of electricity
or wishing will make it so. Another lie
is that she wanted to be born,
but the mother wanted her
out, so out she came,
a wrinkled, overripe grape for the mother to clutch
to her chest near smothering.
Mia Bell is a poet based in Ithaca, New York. Her poem 'Disappearing Act' has been published in Marginalia Review. When she's not writing, she loves going out for long hikes and drinking coffee.