My mother won’t look at me or speak.
Her face is as clenched as her fists
pounding the table for breakfast.
Her cardigan’s splotched from the meal,
her hair greasy. She won’t let them
steal the clothes off her back,
let alone drown her. She knows
what those sweet-voiced bullies are after.
And who am I anyway?
I press the elevator code.
We descend from the third floor
back down to earth. Then out
into late August sunshine, world
made true by light.
We make our slow escape
from the garden, turn the corner.
A minute later, a smile starts to bloom.
The sun lightens her face to radiance.
She shuffle-trots down the sidewalk.
A hand pats a bush, gestures up at a fir.
You see, you see, she mumbles
with what’s left of a jigsaw of words.
We reach Oak Street where there are no oaks —
only traffic blasting up and down a city spine.
Her eyes widen. A bus surges past.
Whee! she cries. Hand in my hand
by this roaring, clattering river,
my mother looks at me at last
and shouts, You see, you see?