WHEN MY MOTHER LEARNS I AM A LESBIAN
At first, silence, & then a thud of breath as if
her throat has slid through the chute of her lungs
& landed, heavy—like a stone—like a sword
lodged suddenly inside it.
“This explains why you don’t wear make-up!” she wails.
A snap—a pulsing panic pulled back & lightly
camouflaged as fear: “What will I tell my friends?
How can I tell my friends? I can never tell my friends!”
Finally, fatigued & determined: “No one must know.”
I give her permission to lie—privilege she takes
as right. I promise her nothing has changed except
the second chromosome of the body resting next to me.
she asks, not wanting the answer: “i suppose you have
to sleep in the same bed?”
«No, in sleeping bags, Mom, cocooned on separate couches
still wrapped in our swaddling clothes.»
I could have said it, but I didn’t.
No tolerance for the absurd.
My mother’s voice, all tissue paper & cellophane,
turns tearful, liquid in its pain: “Where did we go wrong?”
I want to tell her not to forgive me, plead through
the twisted wires that she will not waste her prayers.
“We raised you with God’s laws,” she says.
“We told you to be pure.”
“You raised me to love,” I say.
“You told me to be happy.”
«But she didn’t mean this way, didn’t mean this way,
Dear God, she didn’t mean this way.»
I watch out the window, sigh.
Already prayers are streaming up the sky.
Julie Marie Wade is the author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010; Bywater Books 2014), winner of the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Memoir; Without: Poems(Finishing Line Press, 2010); Small Fires: Essays (Sarabande Books, 2011); Postage Due: Poems & Prose Poems (White Pine Press, 2013), winner of the Marie Alexander Poetry Series; and Tremolo: An Essay (Bloom Books, 2013), winner of the Bloom Nonfiction Chapbook Prize. She is a member of the creative writing faculty at Florida International University.
Mary Stone Dockery is the author of One Last Cigarette, a poetry collection, and the chapbooksBlink Finch and The Dopamine Letters. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Stirring: A Literary Collection, Gutter Eloquence, Arts & Letters, Redactions, and others. She earned her MFA from the University of Kansas in 2012. Currently, she lives and writes in St. Joseph, MO, where she teaches English at Missouri Western State University and coordinates the First Thursdays Open Mic at Norty’s Bar and Grill.