Painbirds IX
by Ashley Warren

When I was young, my
mother’s breasts were in every
room. Large, useless utters
grazing ivory lampshades, reflecting
a forgotten motherhood
in the bathroom mirror.

Her bras were lace and wire,
camel, black and ancient white.
Like a baby elephant, bent over,
her nostrils flaring, lips
pursed as a wrinkled sheet,
cradling them close to her
heart as she clasped them taut.

At night they cushioned my youth,
my ear smothered in heartbeat.

Those youthful nights when nothing
twitched but the moments
before sleep.

I still don’t know
why/how many/which
meds took her breasts
along with her monster thighs
and her mothered gut.

I was alive with grace
and freedom, Pacific driven
during the melting period.

It had been years since I last saw
my mother’s breasts.

Until her mother died.

In the hotel room her public
display had not changed
but now there were ribs
and sharp shoulders and skin
so loose its presence merely
a suggestion.

My bereavement for Grandma K
was lost in grief and deprivation
of my mother’s flesh. Her breasts
now reminded me of nothing
no memory, no mother of mine.

In a stark room with
ironed sheets and nothing
to cradle, I grieved the loss
of my mother as she did hers.

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