His cheeks were a glowing crimson that year,
forced into a furnace of scalding color.
Coping, of course, was not in his vocabulary.
His unsteady hands, coarse and callous,
busied themselves, day after day, taming snakes
in the ceilings. He occasionally let slip some harsh
profanities that sparked the writhing wires.
His head was throbbing, crammed
with endless, extensive formulas:
What plug goes where? Which colored cable
fills the space? No words, no cords
could take her place—only she could soothe
his sweltering fury with the soothing
voice of a mother. My neck twitched at the sound
of steel-toed footsteps taunting
a flushed and fearful girl. He never
took kindly to my clumsiness—
knocked over beer bottles and spilled Stoli—
and he never cared for my faltering apologies,
which could never break his rising fever.
He held up jagged porcelain fragments
of her gift: an ancient, faded, coffee mug
etched with memories now lost in pieces
on the kitchen floor. His hands crumpled into all
too familiar fists, backed by the drunken stupor
and frustration of a sorry excuse for a son
whose mother was stolen by what some call the inevitable,
in an icy, still hospital room miles and miles away.
Both our hearts ached, so why were these
purpled patches blotching my skin?
Was there nothing left to do but swing? Those days
of two thousand and one: under a shower
of voltaic fists, the bitter loss of a woman was mourned
again and again. All that remained was her
perfect script hidden in Christmas cards, a handful of holes
in the walls, and a hostile boy who never quite grew up.