SHEEPISH

As a child, when I
had trouble falling asleep
my mother would trot out
the ancient saw and tell me
to just count sheep.

I tried to point out
to her that we lived
in an upscale suburb
and there were no sheep
for miles for me to count.

This hardly deterred her
and she repeated her
directions, in a stronger
tone of voice that she thought
brooked no argument.

I did try counting sheep
but still couldn’t sleep
given my congestion
and sneezing from what
I learned was a wool allergy.

NO BOIL

Not so much watched
as casually gazed at, and
not a pot but a smartphone,
which had best not boil.

No ring, not this day
lost in what, an absent
mind, thoughts of self,
not unexpected but wanted.

Distance real becomes
distance virtual, empty
later explained, words
of apology, forgiveness

but a lingering scar that
will recede, reappear
that laughter may cover
but never fully erase.

LIFE, ABBREVIATION

Arrival noted, 11:30 P.M.
delivery normal, baby
prepared for agency, mother
released in two days, baby
to foster care, then
to adoptive parents.

No memories, save one,
a fall, bathroom, head
bleeding, black and white
floor tile, radiator harder
than child’s skull.

Now 70, the same person,
a lying mirror each day,
a small cemetery, West
Virginia, a headstone
a mother finally,
a life of mourning.

MOVING DAY

In my dream last night
I was moving a matress, queen sized,
probably with box springs but
it was wrapped, from my parents’ home
to my apartment, but not using
a vehicle, just pushing it
along the streets, obeying
all the traffic signals, using
my turn indicators, although
don’t ask why a mattress had
turn lights, just accept that it did.
It was arduous work, and I
hoped I’d soon get to the hill
that led down to my apartment,
for it would make the end
of the journey easier by far.
Unfortunately I never did
get there, I woke up first
wondering what the dream meant.
So if you can help me, I would
greatly appreciate your insights,
and you should definitely know
it was a Serta Perfect Sleeper
for I’m sure that makes a difference.

LEILA

At the left click of the mouse
my granddaughter appears
barely a week old
and with a right-click
she is frozen into the hard drive.
I remember sitting outside
the Buddha Hall of Todai-Ji Temple
in the mid-morning August sun the
smiling at a baby waiting in her stroller
for her mother to bow
to the giant golden Buddha.
I recall the soft touch
of the young monk on my shoulder,
his gentle smile, and
in halting English, his saying
“all babies have the face
of the old man Buddha.”
In the photos, the smile
of my son is the smile
on the face of Thay,
the suppressed giggle that always
lies below the surface of
the face of Tenzin Gyatso.
There is much I want to ask her,
my little Leila, there is much
she could offer, but I know
that like all Buddhas
she will respond with a smiling
silence and set me back on my path.

Published in As Above, So Below, Issue 9, August 2022
https://issuu.com/bethanyrivers77/docs/as_above_so_below_issue_9

UNTIL

I was the adoptee,
was the whole for years, until.

It is always the until
that is your undoing, was
mine when she
remarried, then two births.

I was one third then, never
again truly whole and when
she died I discovered
in her will I was only
one twentieth, and
then never even that.

I want to forget her,
forget them, deny
them, but all I
know how to do is forgive.

REAR VIEW MIND

I spent too much time looking
backward, looking into the past,
looking into the mirror
to frame a dream history
of my desires and fears.
He called one morning, left
a message, “Mother died,
more details will follow.”
A mother his by birth,
mine by legal act.
I should have felt stunned
anger, I said quietly to myself
he’s cocky, has issues, and went
about momentary mourning.
That is the psyche of the adoptee who
was never family, always an adjunct.
Later my antediluvian dreams
gave way under a torrent
of deoxyribonucleic acid rain.
She who I imagined in the mirror
took name, took shape from
and old yearbook, offered
a history, a family, a heritage.
When I knelt at her grave
she told me her story
in hushed tones, or was it
the breeze in the pines on the hill
overlooking the Kanawha?
I bid her farewell that day,
placed a pebble on her headstone,
stroked the cold marble
and mourned an untouched mother.

SIX FEET UNDER

I remember the afternoon
was cold and damp, with a persistent
drizzle that escaped
the clustered umbrellas,
the sky a blanket slowly shedding
the water that soaked it
as it sat out on the clothesline.

I suspect you would have
liked it this way, everyone in attendance,
everyone shuffling their feet,
wanting to look skyward,
knowing they would see only
a dome of black umbrella domes.

I recited the necessary prayers,
kept a reasonable pacing
despite the looks of many urging
me to abridge the service, but
the rain didn’t care about their wishes
and I knew you wouldn’t
so I carried on to the conclusion.

As they lowered your coffin
into the puddled grave, I imagined
you laughing, knowing in the end
you had this day gotten the last one.

First Published in The Poet Magazine – Featured Poetry
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/august-2022

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

My history is like an ill-
sewn quilt, odd pieces
of parents stitched loosely
together, always ready to come
apart, fade or be thrown away.

Perhaps my history is
more like a beloved
old pair of jeans, holes
appear and are patched,
patches wear out and are
replaced, or the hole is
just left, as if it were
somehow a fashion statement.

There is little normal
when you are adopted, loved
perhaps, but always
on the edge of being
an outsider, and when that
is repeated, the distance
grows exponentially,
until you find a birth parent
or two and the holes
are patched with dreams
of what might have been.