At Kohl’s Jewelry Counter
I want to put them on myself
my mother said of the clip-ons
she beheld like a glittering prophecy,
while I held her purse thick with Kleenex
and the aches and pains of the old.
But she struggled to slide the earrings
onto her lobes and close the clips,
letting them hang halfway, barely,
like spent seed pods,
and the small oh that escaped her mouth
each time one slipped off
was like the faint coo of a distant dove,
as if she had flown toward a horizon
beyond the foothills, and I was alone
on a dirt road listening
for her call. She taught me
how to feel sorry for people,
call them poor things,
like the stocky girl in my class who wore
a miniskirt and knee-high boots,
her thighs like bread dough.
Earrings of loss
falling to the floor, and me,
my mother’s only witness,
the familiar bag of pity ballooning
in my chest, crowding out
anything else I might have felt.
Eileen Pettycrew’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Ohio Review, CALYX Journal, Cave Wall, SWWIM Every Day, and elsewhere. In 2022 she was one of two runners-up for the Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry and a finalist for the New Letters Award for Poetry. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Eileen lives in Portland, Oregon.