the creative gene

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my mother says she has started to see things at the edge of her vision:
mice, flies, general disturbers of her immaculate and germ-free peace.
she has always warned me against reading in the dark.
she says, maybe i should get my eyes checked.
my mother’s breasts swing like twin pendulums, like scrying crystals.
eggplants with huge pink areolas growing downwards.
getting dressed is a daily parade. she hates her body but loves her nakedness.
when she sits down next to me on the stairs,
i avoid her gaze. is it true i haven’t seen her face up close for years?
symmetrical hemispheres of high cheekbone, eyes rimmed red and glass,
residue of the day’s lipstick in lip crevices.
her hands now aged closer to my grandmother’s, slightly swollen bones
and papyrus skin. my mother is a hypochondriac.
she loves to regale all willing and unwilling listeners
with tales of her cats and minor injuries. how an ungrateful teacup handle broke off
and stabbed her thumb. how an irresponsible door hit her on the bridge of her nose.
meanwhile, my poems build a quiet archive on the bottom bookshelf.
my mother has moments of clarity. she apologizes for depriving me
of daring things of all kinds: skiing, camping, horseback riding.
she apologizes, and then forgets she has apologized, for her boundless grief.
when she was drunk and angry, i’d write her letters
to avoid being interrupted. she has always said, i’m not as good at words as you are.
she also says, you got the creative gene from me.

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Click here to read Chloe' Skye on the origin of the poem.

Image: “BW” by Hernan Pinera, licensed under CC 2.0.

Chloe’ Skye:
My mother is afraid of aging; she has always said she didn’t want to turn into my grandmother, but it’s happening despite her best intentions. I am surprised now when I catch myself sounding like my own mother.

But there is a tough part of our family history that I’ve work hard to process, become independent of, and finally put to bed.

When my sister and I were little and we would go to visit my grandmother in Florida, my mom devised a code with us. When grandma was acting up, we’d rub our noses to signal our momentary annoyance. The three of us were all in on it, and we could laugh. Later on, this no longer worked with my mom. I couldn’t communicate with her; there was no outlet for my frustration. If I wanted to make sure I was heard, I would have to write my thoughts down on a piece of paper so I could ensure I wouldn’t be interrupted.

She didn’t want me to share those words at the same time as she would take credit for the development that led to me writing them. She is scared of me and proud of me. Mother-daughter relationships are a doozy.

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