finalist, 2017 laux/millar poetry prize
How Not to Remember Your Mother
Emily Rose Cole
The night before I turned sixteen, Mama almost called an exorcist.
I’d been out with a friend who believed she was a witch. It was easier
to let Mama flick holy water into my eyes than to tell her
I’d been practicing a different kind of worship,
easier to let her die thinking I was straight.
I’m not supposed to remember her this way.
We are supposed to carry our dead with reverence.
I know. But sometimes I don’t. I confess,
sometimes I like her better gone.
Like last April, when a cold front sheeted
my lilacs in ice, and I loved them that way,
loved them so much I didn’t care that the afternoon thaw
would kill them, loved them enough
to say to nobody, it’s a good thing she died before I—
and I shut my mouth with the force of a trap
snapping a mouse’s neck.
Like the first time I let a strange man
fuck me. How I would’ve given anything to call her,
to say, see, Mama, I didn’t let you down. Please come back.