Photo #26

Mom's head, Jan. 1962
Mom's head, Jan. 1962
Image of My Mother (1993)

When I think of you,
I remember most that we wondered together,
one afternoon in 1976,
about class.

Surely we were out of our element,
misfit mother, awkward teenage daughter,
musing together on Grace Kelly, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn,
women with class.

We sat at the kitchen table,
drinking diet Dr. Pepper, you smoked Kools,
and we used the barest tracings of words
to outline what we could not define.
We knew even then we could not hope to say it,
that all words are useless before such an
indelible, immutable force. Yet we talked for over an hour.

I remember that you spoke of your mother,
a woman I never knew. I've seen the black & white photo:
she's settled on a straight-back chair,
slim legs dangling coolly from crossed knees,
cigarette lounging between her fingers,
her pale freckled skin the faded image of yours.
She looks tired, or resigned.
You told me then that she was your best friend,
and that she had class.

The other day, I sat alone with the album open,
images of you in my hands, your face
and your movements stilled thirty years ago,
and I saw someone I cannot define,
much less hope to know.
Your dark wavy hair and clear smiling eyes
remind of my mother's, but the woman I see now
is tentative when she fingers those ghostly wisps,
and she looks at me, when she looks at me,
with unfocused eyes swimming lost
beyond a bloated and sallow face

I thought
because this is what I took
from our conversation
that class meant
somehow becoming more yourself
in the midst of circumstance.
I thought we agreed, wordlessly,
that it's what we would strive for.
Didn't we?

I see your shaking freckled hands
and your confused liquored eyes,
but this afternoon is what I think of,
when I think of you.

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