Be Like This Baby
Dignity is won
By countless forays into shame
That lead you to the place
Where you are not yourself
And then you are forgiven.
Released into the emptiness
That hollows out your soul
And you reflect a nothingness
That reminds you of your grandparents
Brothers sisters mother father
The family portrait
Hangs on a dim wall
To remember is to accept
The limits of your present
The frame of this resemblance
Is an accident you crave to capture
In points of ink
Across a flimsy sheet
Into love we flow
to where we once were never.
Go back to never.
Grab that golden orb
Just as it blinks into the day
Babies smell in a way that sends us down,
Down before their feet
To worship the majesty
Be like this baby
and be a tender nursemaid besides
sepia light dies upon your faces
Visible this scene
Like shutters close and open
We’re fragments of the days
the self fades into the evening
My mother and I are having an argument.
It’s an old one, older than hills.
It comes from a sidewalk in Atlantic City
That leads to the glaring ocean
And a baby buggy that bounces on tightly wound springs;
A little girl’s curly blond halo
The acrid smell of burnt hair,
Stiff little ruffles,
And mother’s closet is always forbidden.
Once they wore furs and always a lady is gloved.
And now she is even that
much more formal in her clothes than I
In effort to flatter figure discreetly,
Seal the obvious tear
Even after bras burnt and armpits
re-sewn with bean sprouts
from the strange refrigerator
Calf’s brains or carob,
this generation has its curiosities,
But mother won’t admit to them
For she’s not really my mother
she’s just pretending to be.
Secretly, we argue about
who should be taken care of first,
We argue about whether or not
I will ever be married
And will I ever have
any authority over my own children
and will I then argue with my own daughter about whose turn it is?
Who does one turn to but one’s mother?
To turn into one’s mother,
To turn to the earth,
Fertile land massing to enclose
What shoots towards light
And away from grave solace
and damp things that twist
far below the thoughts of civilized man.
If you’re still a moment
You can hear our strained voices
float across the manicured lawn.
Born in rural Canada, Zoe Greenberg moved to New York to study Film & Theatre at NYU. Her experimental films have been shown in New York City, Dublin, and Moscow, and her stories have been featured on the CBC Radio shows Sounds Like Canada and Wiretap. A chapbook of her poetry, Motion for Passion, was published by Lyrical Myrical Press. Currently she’s working on her third novel, Grushenka, the story of a Polish cleaning woman with a dissident poet past and her encounter with a group of young Brooklyn revolutionaries. She lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn.