You’re not my own but you read me to bed,
and tickles me to the bone
love how my fat cheeks dimple up.
And I’m barely two and my curls are brand new.
And you don’t know what she’s doing, trying to make my braids,
Put your head down, hold your head down, hold it still.
Tilt a little to the left, you always say. Your purple tooth comb making a part down the middle takes more faith than Moses drowning Pharaoh’s chariots.
Psalm to mom who bakes bacon.
Who has this son who looks nothing like you, nothing like me
But he pulls me round in the red wagon and sits next to me
at the ugly yellow table from the 70’s.
They say there’s something about kids.
Even if you don’t feel them inside you for 9 months
Even if you didn’t hold them fresh
Psalm to mom who sings my favorite songs in the mornings,
“Jacob’s Ladder” and “Come Home Weary Traveller,”
Songs you learned in 3-part harmony, in Lancaster County farming crops,
in buggies with black tops.
Psalm to you, mom, who once put curlers in my curly hair
Who smiles when I ask you to braid just this, right there.
We sit on the porch and I still wince when your uncomb
Psalm to mom who plays “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for me on the piano
And listens to Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” on the radio.
You never tell jokes quite right and have trouble remembering your dreams.
I want to tell you,
Mom, my heart skips a beat when you stay in the grocery store too long, forgive me.
Mom, I hide my pain in poems instead of telling you, forgive me.
Mom, I wish your skin were the same color as mine, forgive me.
Mom, I’m sure I stole 3,000 cookies in the last 30 years, forgive me.
Mom, I’ve meant more hates than loves, forgive me.
Mom, doctors said I was born with a hole in my heart and I stopped you from healing it, forgive me.
Mom, I said you’re not my real mother, I said I didn’t want you, forgive me.
Mom, I wanted to feel my other mother’s arms for once, forgive me.
Mom, I wished for the mother who looks like me, forgive me.
The one who looks at the calendar sees that it’s February.
And there’s that blank day, the 14th written in red like STOP.
Like that’s the day I lost. The day my heart dropped.
It had a bitter end sound, a nameless baby to be found and then lost.
Mom, I’m writing this psalm to tell you that you are home,
that you point my hazel eyes towards sunsets, that Jesus
Walks on water, that I’m your favorite daughter. Home, where you give me more milk than I need and ask me to pick up apples that have fallen out of trees.
Mom, I’m writing this psalm because you taught me to say thank you
during dinner prayer, to eat my carrots and stop running my hands through my straightened hair, but I don’t stop because I want my fingers caught in curls and knots.
Mom, this psalm is about you, how you like dishes that are blue,
how you love to hold cats and laugh when I say, I’ll be right back.
Mom, this is what I imagine, that I tell you how I feel,
that my hands are ready for your heart, I won’t hold back. I won’t hold back
I’ll be that little girl with curls when I run head first, run headfirst into you.