Self orphaned when Pora's mother took to bed
and didn't rise except to dull the pain
then sleep again. Pora packaged pens, then drained
the ashram sinks, unfolded table legs
for kiddush drinks, returned to rollerballs,
leaked spots of ink, smudged words to tell the tale
of losing her, then lost herself, bedrail
grip to birth one child then two, crawl
then toddle phone calls here and there, until
a visit, left her children in grandma's care.
“I needed to” would be exaggeration;
to want, compelled by fear, umbilical
connection still there--would be more than fair
reason to return to her strange nation.
A gift, this question from Pora's son
imagining a flat box or rolled paper
tied with ribbon. Blueberes
are blue/Stroberes/are red/
I love you, his said and Pora knew
he meant this present, no pretense
or abstraction, just tinkered
mimicry and slant intention. Pink
marker, the fruits capitalized, signature
style that will surely get imposed
with rhyme, r’s doubled, exchanged
someday for gift receipts: knee high
socks, a watch ticking away, hand-built
candy dishes, a half-started loom.
Poetry’s ink magnetized to the fridge
will fade beside new report cards, lists
of bananas, eggs, milk, and inside
the freezer door, the blueberries
picked last summer in Comer, Georgia.
~People ascribe more value to things merely because they own them
Pora removes glasses. Her son pushes the dorsal side of her hand, a vein rising from knuckle to wrist like a topographical map's
river. This is not her hand. This is her father's or her father's mother's hand. Her son's skin so smooth she thinks it's hers at first or
was before sunspots teemed forearms: white dots and brown like bulging towns swelling together to form a modern
city. Visiting the retirement home she meets 89 year old Agnes who, at 82, fell a flight of stairs, thanks god she holds
a cane again to walk. She'd cursed the god when she couldn't read 11 lettered rows. Her good vision lost, she started to see
the end and beginning. In the corneas and skin, an antique collection of grief. She wants the old hands back, vision
that's 20 :20. She wants to tell herself: get off the tar roof, brush and floss, don't bleach or straighten, stop painting her now yellowish
nails. She stands on a watch tower. She squints at an inevitable mirror, a land She'll fight to own. The doctor clicks the slide projector's
carousel, asks "Which picture's more clear? This one, or this one?" What she owns, the losing just begun.
Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, is the author of Imperfect Tense (poems), and three scholarly books in education. Winner of NEA “Big Read” Grants, the Beckman award for "Professors Who Inspire," and a Fulbright for nine-month study of adult Spanish language acquisition in Oaxaca Mexico, she's served for over ten years as poetry editor for Anthropology & Humanism, judging the ethnographic poetry competition. Her work has appeared in Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Women’s Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Barrow Street, and many other literary and scholarly homes. She posts at her blog http://teachersactup.com.