Elegy to a Living Mother
Pity the rhododendrons didn't rise
from the dirt where a fence
sits in segments growing from earth
Today, I think I'll ask
the postman if he loves his wife
and the waiter if he's ever cheated.
I'll unbind and watch
a letter flutter to the ground: Dear Luke,
I've got to stop doing acid on weekdays.
I've got to stop walking so slowly past
the psychic who is really a prostitute,
watching her cross legs
beside a billboard.
I took a knife now and thought of the oven, I thought
of the bedside
where you won't rest your head
I stopped eating
& felt my body
go mother you'd be proud
of the way I'm breathing
[one in at a time
mother you said in this life
don't leave the stove on
Things I'm Sorry For
Just today I preached about Texas—
roads I haven't seen and a bridge I won't cross
to a town I could never love. I sat close-kneed
on the train and listened to boys bang
tight-lipped canvas with their forefingers.
I watched a man stumble up a twenty
from the bottom of his pocket, crumple it
hard into the palm of the drummer.
Also, a confession: I don't love music
or sound or silence. Speakers tumble
a song I swayed and it played in the car
that one time my dad told me
he was getting married and I reached
my hand back from the front seat
and Jamie found my fingers
and I can't remember the last time
we touched and it meant something.
So go on and gasp and love me less
when I like books better than sound,
when every note makes me cringe and recall
some memory, some head-down walk
round campus where I wound up weeping
under a tree and flipping open a cell phone
to dial my mother and say mom I'v e stolen
something, mother I've slept with someone,
mother I think I've died.
Please, a fire, to warm my feet and please money
for the man with the bad voice singing subway songs
and the mime in times square, silver-faced and free.
Laura Jo Hess is from St. Louis, Missouri. After writing textbooks in Chicago for two years, she moved to New York City to pursue an MFA at The New School. Her work is published in Blue Mesa Review, decomP magazine, Margie Review , and The White Whale Review.