Our mother might launch her thumb
into the air and say Get the hell
out of here or she might tell
us a parable about the quick and the dumb
pulling a splinter from a finger.
She might linger at the back door
humming the notes to a score
she was struggling to learn. Bring
me a cigarette she would shout
over her night-gowned shoulder.
The weather could change without
warning: clear morning, mountains
of cloud by noon. When you're older
she would snap, turning off the TV
or snatching a book from your hands,
then scuff across the rug, a phantom
in her blue robe and slippers. We
lost her daily, then found her devout
over a bowl of cherries, turning
to spit the seeds into our upturned
faces, us flinching in unison when she missed
and hit the wall, her red lips shaped in a kiss.
We never knew which way to run:
into her arms or away from her sharp eyes.
We loved her best when she was gone,
and when, after long absence, she arrived.