Watching Her Listen Probably to Janis Joplin

Tim Lynch


I don't care if the sky is blue. My mother is alive.
She survived the hollowing of her grandmother's fingers
into cicadas' clung husks by wailing forty-six rats
out of her lungs, all spilled across the kitchen floor,
ticking like plastic pearls. I saw her
pinch two of the smallest by their tails & raise them
pedaling to her mouth. They gnawed her tongue turned stone,
tiny staves of their teeth drawing blood,
then slowly, like a pony, hands to lips,
she chewed & savored their fingers shivering
down her throat. The others she wolfed, finding them all night
under her bed, between toes, boa-wrapped on lamps
& bulbed in next morning's coffee. All forty-four left
& found went down, her teeth cracking ribs,
tails like flailing tinsel.
                                                Now, after seven years,
I spy her making funny faces
at a snake underfoot in the garden
as she stomps its body, making wine. Or maybe
she's just dancing, or both & plucking parsley,
finding thyme—this her shedding grief & whipped hair.
This woman who was minnows flicking in an otter's gut,
who shimmies like leaves before her last storm casts her
into the brown bay between us, turns—soil in her toes,
useful to herself—to me. Calls me honey & home & I am
beginning to see how to swallow what I'm left.