My Mother is a Pinecone
My mother is a pinecone. I have known it for years. You would think something that looks like a wooden egg would be warm. Every day, we carry the pinecone from room to room. When she needs to go to the store, we wrap her in silk. Son, she says, to remind me we are bound, be careful of the birds. Especially the Jays. You know they are waiting. You know they are watching. I nod. My sister nods. My brother too. She hates birds, dogs, any animal really. She smokes and rants, waving her hand like a conductor of an unkind symphony. Her voice is nasally and scratchy, skips like a record player. We sit in a semi-circle, quiet, attentive. The pinecone coughs and hacks. The pinecone gags and wobbles. We lean forward. We think the same thought. When she recovers, we lean back in our seats, sort of relieved. We never discuss the thorns, sharp as teeth.
What Vardaman Knows
“My mother is a fish.”—William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Stay with me here. I am turning my mother into a fish. Vardaman knows what I mean. I pull her from the ice. She is not impressed. Her mouth opens and closes. Can she see my large American house? All the windows are open. The curtains shift in the wind like inflatable tube men. She pretends she is not hooked. She says, this is not the old country ways. These are not the old country days. I remind her we are overseas far from those shores. I sigh when she remembers leaving not fleeing. Throw me back, throw me back. There is nothing I can do. It is late. The world is too cold; the past is too heavy. How can the long pause be her lungs ceasing their rhythm? I turn away, unable to stay.