I. Mom grimaces at my figure in the purple dress I had ordered. I say it is what every college girl wears. The dress had spaghetti straps and If I was cold enough I could see my breasts poking hard through the fabric. I stood proudly. It was not often that I felt like a woman. She kept her jewelry armoire on her dresser; amalgam of pasta shell and bead necklaces, ones with topaz stone and pearl. Souvenir pins and extra shirt buttons, endearments from prior suitors. Ziploc bag with tuft of dog hair. II. Sitting in some low-lit bar The swarthy eye croons like velvet Hold a wine glass like a warm cigarette tilting the bowled weight between the finger bones Purse-lipped sip bitter swirl over tongue Until mouth is soft as sand.
Black-feathered birds (or had they been charred by the sun?) swung about the soft pink sky in circles like toys of a mobile above a crib, affixed by unseen strings and moving aloof and careless as the slow, drawling tune of a music box. The sun melts red onto the branches of trees, the hillsides, the roofs of houses, the street, and it melts into the dark mountain line like a brilliant orb of water, gilding the contour of the mountains before rolling down the other side and lying stagnant in the valley bowl. In windows people move quietly, in the sobriety of the ashen dusk light. Soundless in this impressionist scene. Hills on the green golf course like the bellies of dogs shaved to the skin. My legs are weary and I think that I shall melt too, that, red soaked, my being will diffuse into the hazy colors of the air, and my heart will be hung like dew upon the branches and the hillsides and the roofs of houses.
In the spring of that year the poppies in the field behind our house blushed and unfurled like girls in the wake of their ripening.
My mother said she was too tired to go outside. I lay alone in the tall grass and watched ants swarm and carry away the body of a honeybee to their monarch, bulging and recumbent in her hollowed chamber.
She would cough often at dinner. Dotting the bare white china, the red of the poppies.
I call for her in the field but there is no answer.
I tell her don’t leave. I tell her that I will be good.
The poppies, basking their rosy faces in the sun, are indifferent. They pretend they do not hear me. I imagine my mother among them, concealed in the throng of their slender, boyish figures.
Had her fingers and toes sprouted roots which burrowed into the black earth like worms? Did the butterflies lick her lips, glistening with nectar?
When my father and I go to the grocery store the cash registers roll their musical tongues coated in silver the women with their children look up from their canned peas and Wonder bread the butcher with his starched apron blotted, sullied like the napkin of a beast who gorging itself on the supine carcass of a bovine straightens in its chair, wipes its snout politely and says pass the ketchup please.
The bovine pulls a long face. Its pink tongue hangs from its mouth. The black bowls of its eyes like lead bullets in sockets of flesh.