- I Held My Mother’s Hospital Breath in My Mouth, and: Elegy for an Ex-Marine
I Held My Mother’s Hospital Breath in My Mouth
I held her falling teeth as they fell.I held the sickness lodged like a lost bullet at the base of her skull.The way she held back how much it hurt to turn her neck.I held my tongue, like a hospital gurneyLocked in the waiting room of my notebook.I bought no piano for the house, where she was always dying.But she was always dying. Suffering. Living.Though she lied about it to make us feel better.As if the stars were not a constant threat. As if the night were meantFor some other family. I held it all inside of me.I held the doctor’s face. I held his green glovesand their sterile truth. I never heard my mother scream.I could not hold that door open.I held my mouth like a swollen river of unspeaking.I learned no special way of singing about her pain.I won no special prize.
Elegy for an Ex-Marine
After you die once, you never stop dying.
Twenty years after my cousin,the marine, hung himselffrom a tree in the park [End Page 107] his body still swings,two decades down the backof the wind. An old braid,he cut at recruitment.He wanted to remove himselffrom life,but it didn’t work.What we take from each othergrows back,but changed.Every dogwood in the parkgnarling into a face.The dinner table turns to coffin.The silence to image.We pray to keep the family safe.Code for whatwe have broken together.Black feathers fallfrom my aunt’s petal-thin mouth.He returns dragginghis hard yellow ropeover the dining room floor. [End Page 108]
Tresha Faye Haefner is a writer, editor, and workshop facilitator. Her work has been published in several journals, including the Cincinnati Review, Fourth River, Hunger Mountain, Poet Lore, and Rattle. She is the recipient of the Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, a Puschart nominee, and author of the chapbook Take This Longing (Finishing Line Press). Tresha lives in Los Angeles, where she is founder of The Poetry Salon.