Invited to call her Mom, silently I called her Umbrella in Sunshine
Flea-Market Wristwatch Three Phone Calls A Day
Flash Flood Warning.
Why take a chance?
The cat will suck the breath out of the baby.
Spare Room Hoarder of get-well cards and flashlights
bottles of sleeping pills. (They’re not habit-forming – I should know,
I’ve been taking them for years.)
She called me Broken Eggs Hamster in a Plastic Ball.
Half-hour Early/Ten Minutes Late
She called me Barefoot in Snow–
That name I kept.
Years after her death
I wake stunned
when others call me Worry and I respond Be Safe.
Please don’t do
Call it Poetic Justice. Call me So soon?
I call myself, I Didn’t Know—
My Mother’s Pessary *
Was she buried with it, I wonder?
That pinky-ball that for years supported
the vault over my begetting? My fault,
we used to joke.
Large baby, traumatic birth,
Decades later, I witnessed
the price paid in her halting gait,
weary eyes (blue green like mine)
seeking a bench so she could sit down.
This is not like you, Mom.
Then it was I who supported
undressed, lifted. Even though
I was by then several times a mother —
I did not know this secret toll
that there could be this
late-in-life weight in the pelvis
pregnancy of years
this falling through
her overstretched muscles
falter, fail, a curtain’s elasticity lost
turned inside-out like a sock.
Attended, midwife to my mother’s aging
counted her breaths
an inexorable roller coaster inverted
dangles on the verge of dive-drop,
her tummy measured to house this blushing little thing
that for the last years of her life plugged up the dam
and kept the sky from falling.
* A therapeutic pessary is a medical device most commonly used to treat prolapse of the uterus.
Faith Paulsen’s work has appeared in Ghost City Press, Seaborne, and Book of Matches, as well as Thimble Literary Magazine, Evansville Review, Mantis, Psaltery and Lyre, and Terra Preta, among others. Her work also appears in the anthologies Is it Hot in Here or Is It Just Me? (Social Justice Anthologies) and 50/50: Poems & Translations by Womxn over 50 (QuillsEdge). She has been nominated for a Pushcart, and her chapbook A Color Called Harvest (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2016. A second chapbook, Cyanometer, is expected in 2021.