Two Months After
When I wake up, I realize this was the first dream
I had where I knew my mother was dead.
It was not a part of the dream, but I knew, the way
you know things in dreams: that you can float
if you squeeze your eyes shut enough, that this home
that isn’t your home is your home, and, for this dream,
that my mother was dead. I wonder if this is healthy,
a form of acceptance, a good sign.
When I woke after dreams where my mother was alive
again, I didn’t know how to feel about it.
But now, even in my dreams, my mother is dead.
There is no sanctuary anymore. Even in my dreams,
I couldn’t keep her alive.
Four Months After
I miss the way my mother loved me.
How she saw me as having a place in the world.
My therapist tells me when I speak about my mother,
I use the world narrative a lot. It’s true.
My mother was my life’s narrator.
She told the story of my life to me.
Without her, my life seems so clumsy
and purposeless. Who cares what I do
or don’t do? Who cares if I forget,
or remember? This art I create
in the vacuum of her death
feels like so much pale dirt,
weak and heavy and plain.
My mother’s love was a bell
that hurts to ring without her.
My life is the static-y remainder
of tape after the beautiful music ends.
How empty and useless the silence,
how I listen with my ear to the speaker
because it’s all I have left.
Six Months After
My therapist tells me it’s okay to just cry,
to miss her. Sometimes there is no answer,
no pivoting, no framing things in a better light.
She says it’s okay to just miss, to just long,
to look at the world as less than without her,
for now, or forever too. But definitely for now,
it’s okay to be buried in it for a bit, to be in it,
to feel it. My mind whirls and buzzes, trying
to find its solution. The insects in the forest
behind my house scream every night trying to find
love in the dark. I sit with my dogs on the porch
when I can’t sleep and listen. Together we all watch
the sun creep across the sky like spilled wine.
A new day waiting to flood over us, no matter
how comfortable we’ve grown with the night.
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the author of six previous books of poetry. Her second collection of poetry, Hot Teen Slut, was recently option for a film adaption, and her sixth collection of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was awarded the Book of the Year for Poetry by the Writers’ League of Texas. Aptowicz is also the author of two nonfiction books, most recently Dr Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine (Avery Books/Penguin ), which spent three months on the New York Times Best Seller list. Recent awards include a NEA Fellowship in Literature, the ArtsEDGE Writer-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Amy Clampitt House Residency. When not on tour, Aptowicz lives and writes in Austin, TX, with her husband, the novelist/screenwriter Ernest Cline, and their family. For more information, please visit: www.aptowicz.com