Mothers never fare well in these stories:
murderers, murdered, lamenting, lamented
deluded, deceived, held in fealty to a regnant logic
or rage that prevails in celestial halls and over the red earth.
Change is instant, details left out,
the connection between cause and effect takes place off the page,
as in a dream. One moment a girl’s making her way
demurely down some forest path, the next,
she’s a laurel or a heifer, tethered and flyblown.
(Nor does she see it coming, she doesn’t pause for a moment
at the forest’s edge with a presentiment
that she’ll no longer be the same on the other side.)
Outside these stories,
it’s the little changes that matter:
Mum repeats the question she just asked
and there are stories about my childhood and youth
that I know she’s made up, that stray further from our truth,
further into villages and suburbs I don’t recognise
and can’t navigate.
Nor do bystanders earn a special role
in those stories, no-one’s mystified enough to get a line.
Even the father of the girl can’t weep enough
to change her fate. But I keep telling my jokes,
gates in the dam wall raised afresh every day to her delighted laughter.
I’m woken by a storm from a dream: I could feel
the skin on my shins growing coarse and dark
its heavy ridges glistening with the pelting rain.
The dream seemed to sense an unkindness
like a kind of sap rising through the heartwood
toward the canopy’s astonishment.