Smoky homunculous

Mom always taught me that I was an exception. That I’m tougher. That I’m smarter. That I’m straight-up better than the dosage on the side of the bottle says I ought to be. And I think that’s because she recognized in me the same dark thing that lived inside of her.

The same black mouth full of filthy ivory that tells us that what we see isn’t all there is.

The same smoky homunculus that whispers, when things get real quiet and I’m by myself, “the world, this whole goddamn thing, isn’t what it says it is.”

She peered inside her boy and it peered back.

I love this ugly thing in my hollowed out heart. I think my mom did too.

But instead of building a fire and setting a place at the table and inviting it to sit down, she left the door open. And away it went. After that, the world would only be the raw, tired thing it says it is. It is cold. It is poor. That’s it. That’s all.

I saw her and dad a couple of weeks before she died, the last time Lev will have ever seen his grandma. Dad said to me “Lev knows so many words—he’s always talking.”

And I saw, for a moment, the dark thing rise up behind mom’s worn-out eyes and she said, “that’s because Josh spends time with him!” And then it was gone again. And all that was left was tired, cold, and poor. That’s it. That’s all.

Leonine night

Tonight, as Mighty Lev fights his way through another cold, I’m visited by the memory of my mother’s eucalyptus fingers, stained and weary and bleeding through work and winter–but never not soft with salve for my beating heart–and her, raven-haired in the little boy’s night light, singing above the ragged rise and fall of her sick son’s chest.

If you’re out there, your work is not done. There are a couple of boys in the rain and roar of this leonine night who could use the quiet of your touch.