My Mother Makes Me Human

My mother knows so many things
She knows how to make plants grow,
And how to soothe the ravage beast inside me
She knows how to cook for Kings,
And how to draw me out from my darkness
She knows how to dress in style,
And how to make me appear human in front of dinner guests.

But I am only just beginning to realize
That my mother does not know everything
I am only just beginning to decide
That it is time for me to live without her

Grandma

In the kitchen my mother is standing
Broken, arms cradling the dead baby
Of her smoky childhood.
Her eyes are shattered snowglobes
At my entrance,
She wipes her bleeding cheeks and smiles
Nothing is wrong, she tells me
But I know better

I know what day it is; the anniversary
My grandma, wide-eyed, lying on the bathroom tiles
I was only seven.
I did not understand, only knew that my mother’s tears
Were the most terryifying thing I’ve ever seen.

Safe

When I look after my children, I must make them feel safe.
Oliver yanks my sleeve, jabbering about assassins, and Ella presses into my side with warm sticky fingers.
“What’s an assassin?”
I lie. “They are not real. They only exist in books. Besides, they would never come here – our town is too small.”
Oliver says that people will break into the house, and his little sister shivers against me.
“The doors are locked,” I respond. “The windows are bolted. And the lights are all on – burglars never break into a house if they think the people inside are awake.”
Oliver brings up fires, and I have had enough.
“There are fire alarms on every floor. Come on, Ollie; time for bed.” He’s scaring his sister.
He trots off to his own room. I smooth the hair from Ella’s head, kiss her hot skin and pad to the doorway.
Her quiet whisper calls me back. “Mommy? Can you leave the lights on?”
The fear in her voice; her wide eyes; the way her covers are yanked right up to her chin… children shouldn’t have to be afraid. It makes me feel so cold, so weary, so achingly sad. I want my children to be carefree and innocent of the dangers. It isn’t their job to worry.
“Of course,” I reassure her. “I’ll keep them all on.” I close the door softly behind her and tread downstairs.
When I look after my children, I must make them feel safe.
But I wish that I didn’t need to. I wish that this world was safe.

Grandma

In the kitchen my mother is standing
Broken, arms cradling the dead baby
Of her smoky childhood.
Her eyes are shattered snowglobes
At my entrance,
She wipes her bloody-stained cheeks and smiles
Nothing is wrong, she says. Everything’s fine, please go back to sleep. Her lie is not convincing.

I know what day it is; the anniversary
My grandma, wide-eyed, lying on the bathroom tiles
I was only seven.
I did not understand what was wrong, only knew that my mother’s tears
Were the most terryifying thing I’ve ever seen.

Every year, this day is a reminder
Her absence in the house is a dark bird,
Towering in the corner of every room
Her absence is a presence, every moment lacking dimension
Because she is not there to measure against

My mother cradles herself, the child she once was lifeless in arms
The woman she knew is folding herself smaller and smaller
The memories eroding, becoming fainter and confined to photos
Like the portrait as yellowed as her fingertips, tucked away
Into the pocket that once contained a fresh, beating heart

Stars

From this window, I can see the stars
I pull back the emerald curtains and stare at those distant lights for the longest time
Amongst the millions, I find my friends and greet them by name
To the collection of five bright stars, “Good evening, Cassiopeia.”
To the lone wanderer, “Hello, North Star.”
And to the sprawled constellation that occupies much of the night sky – “Bless you, Orion: the mighty hunter.”

These are the same stars I can see from my bedroom window at home, and being able to find them now is reassuring
My world may be shifting under my feet, sending me reeling in directions I’ve never been – but the stars are constant
From her window at home, my mother looks out to these same stars
In my mind’s eye I can see her
She gazes out, her greying hair pulled back with a brightly coloured headscarf, searching the sky for a sign of me
Her wise eyes reflect the heavens, and she is beautiful
I know that this is my imagination, but it eases my homesickness a little
No matter how far I wander from where I’m supposed to be, at least the stars will watch over me and guide me home
That night, when at last I blew out my candle, I slept easier than I had in months
Above me, the stars turned in the sky, and that stranger’s bed felt just a little more like home

Priority Call

PRIORITY CALL, PRIORITY CALL.

White noise. Turning, blank look at the TV screen. What’s happening?

PRIORITY CALL, PRIORITY CALL. CALLING ALL PERSONNEL. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Tense, tight, constricting. Clammy hands, reaching for comfort.  It can’t possibly be-

WE HAVE A CONFIRMED CASE OF KOSONG-NI IN THIS COUNRTY.

Terror. No breath to gasp, eyes wide, hammering heart. No.

DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE. ALL PERSONNEL MUST WEAR FACE MASKS AND BIOHAZARD GEAR AT ALL TIMES. IF YOU OR ANYONE CLOSE TO YOU BEGINS TO SHOW ANY SYMPTOMS OF KOSONG-NI, IMMEDIATELY BEGIN QUARANTINE.

Throat too tight to swallow. No. This can’t be happening. Wrapped in my mother’s arms, but not safe, not any more. No, all safety is gone. This disease can get through locked doors.

IF YOU HAVE A CONFORMED CASE WITHIN YOUR DWELLING, NOTIFY YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES IMMEDIATELY. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU LEAVE YOUR HOUSE.  I REPEAT, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE.

Lies whispered in my ears. It’ll be okay. It’ll be just fine. We’ll survive this.

We won’t. There is no cure.

THIS IS THE END OF THE RECORDING. PLEASE STAY CALM AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

We’re all dead.