Kathleen M. Kelley

While my mother’s memory of her life

was being shocked from her,

shaken like cereal from a box

upstairs at the Wiswall Hospital,

I waited downstairs for them to finish with her,

hiding behind the spiral staircase that marched up,

line after line of hand-crafted spindles,

order on the polished oak floors, no

convulsions in the flowered parlor,

on the draperies that matched.

Something shocked also out of me,

my shamelessness,

though everyone was kind—

nurse Louise with her paper cups of water,

Alice at the switchboard,

who showed me to the bathroom.

When the treatment was over,

the men in white coats

took her by the arm

and walked her like a bride down the stairs,

where they handed her off to my father.

They stayed just long enough

to reintroduce us, my mother and I,

to remind her of my name

as if we’d never met.

Then it was over,

and we’d go out for pancakes.

Kathleen M. Kelley

Patting the couch,

my real mother beckons with her hand

for me to curl up in between her legs.

Want me to show you a foolproof way to thread a needle?

We sit like nesting blocks.

I am a clumsy child

with stubby, awkward fingers.

Slowly, my mother snips a piece of thread,

gathers it up between her fingers,

aims it at the needle’s eye.

My mother never hurries.

Her knobby hands are like

the jagged limbs of an apple tree

in which I sit.

Just whisper a little prayer.

Whisper it to Mary, you’ll see,

it works every time.

My mother is

a slender, bright, sturdy loop of light,

a halo that encircles me.

She is my real mother,

not that other one.

Every single morning

she gets out of bed.

Kathleen M. Kelley is the Winner of the 2008 Anderbo Poetry Prize for these two poems. She is an oncology social worker living in western Massachusetts, where she writes poetry, memoir, and essays. Her work has appeared in Peregrine, The Equinox, The Sun, Many Hands, Earth’s Daughters, and Insight Journal. She can be reached at .

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