Letter Beginning in My Voice and Ending in My Mother’s
Don’t act like when you warm up
rice in the microwave tonight you won’t think
about the mornings you dried out coke
on the blue ceramic plate—the one with honey
painted gladiolas, heat glittering
into creases of your fingers.
And don’t pretend when you smudge
black mascara on your fingertips, you don’t remember
how you held that globie for too long,
the cauterizing flame painting ponds
on curled glass. You used to believe
your hands were attractive, that your chance
to escape Pinedale was that Nivea
gig, You, a hand model. You, your own door
you could not open from the inside.
The most feminine thing on my body
is inherited. Cloak. No, cape. No, sable sequence
slit dress, dignified, slipping like wind
through the Chinese Elm in our front yard.
So many men have exaggerated this grace
for your attention, asked, has anyone ever told you,
and you assumed no one ever had. These men reach
over the speckled, marble bar to touch your hands.
You can’t tell which you want and which you deserve.
Sometimes, a woman wears a dress so long,
not knowing it, she forgets her legs.
Sometimes, a daughter wears her inheritance
so long, she forgets she can change.