Still Life/Paradelle for a Dropped Memory

By Suzanne Langlois

 

Still Life

My mother stands by the door
holding my baby sister on her hip.

Next to her, the woodstove growls and bares its teeth.
The dog bowl pulls its head into its dark shell.

I have heard the word divorce at school-
this thing my parents are considering.

The mugs cling to their hooks, leaving claw marks in the wood
as they try to climb higher on the hutch.
The mittens in the cubby crawl into the hats and hide.

I think it means to divide things evenly,
to take their toys and go home.

The bench grunts and drags itself under the table to wallow.
The sink drain chews up forks and spits out mangled fingers.

There are two of us, enough for each of them to have one.
I ask my mother,
Which one of us will you take? 

The table between us purrs as it stretches and rolls lazily onto it’s back,
spreading the pads of its feet to reveal claws.
The windows all suck in their breath and shut their eyes tight.

She says nothing and presses
her nose and mouth into the baby’s hair.

The light switches lower their faces and stare at the floor.
The cabinets pack their things,
pulling their doors closed behind them.

 

Paradelle for a dropped memory

I wish I had looked more carefully at your face.
I wish I had looked more carefully at your face.
Its details have scattered and lost themselves.
Its details have scattered and lost themselves.
Lost, I have scattered your face carefully
and wish its details had looked at themselves more.

My ear left a spiral tattoo where it pressed against your chest.
My ear left a spiral tattoo where it pressed against your chest.
I remember the joy of hearing your voice bubble from its source.
I remember the joy of hearing your voice bubble from its source.
Remember where I left it, the source of my joy, a tattoo against your ear—
hearing your spiral voice pressed from its chest bubble.

Our memories are a handful of pebbles in my pocket.
Our memories are a handful of pebbles in my pocket.
Dropped one by one, these mute stones won’t lead me back to you.
Dropped one by one, these mute stones won’t lead me back to you.
My stone back to you, these lead pebbles are dropped by one
in a pocket. Our one handful of memories won’t mute me.

I remember your lead voice bubble in my ear,
and from one pocket I had lost my hearing to its spiral source.
Me, I won’t face your back—a mute stone, a tattoo more looked-at by you.
Our memories have scattered themselves against it—
its handful of details, the one carefully dropped wish chest
where these pebbles of pressed joy are left.

 

 

 

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Suzanne Langlois teaches high school English in southern Maine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Yellow Chair Review, and English Journal as well as in the anthologies Passion and Pride: Poets in Support of Equality, Be Wilder, and Hysteria.

Art by Michelle Johnsen, Third Point Press Art Editor

Michelle Johnsen  is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by AP, weather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.