Lisa L. Siedlarz


My mother left when I was two. No memory
of the severing, only Mema and Auntie’s muffled
voices behind sealed pocket doors. An image
of Dad on the back steps, crying.

Classmate’s words embed like nails in bone,
you have no mother.
I spend days in my sanctuary:
gardens of cannas and daisies,
face and arms smudged with nature.

I cut the lawn weekly. The push mower whirrs
like a pinwheel fastened to a bike. It snips heads
off long grass, flicks them in the air before the crush
of wheel and foot.

The mower kicks out an olive acorn, brown beret
nicked but firmly seated. I pick it up, roll and press
its needled point in my palm. We have no trees, so I
imagine gentle fingers plucking this single nut from an oak,
dropping it in my yard.

For a third day I see a squirrel peek from daylily umbra.
I sit on the ground, stretch my hand so the acorn rocks
in the cup of my knuckles. Squirrel reaches, our fingers
touch. I imagine a mother’s caress.

After Watching National Geographic

Broad white stripes over rain-slicked asphalt
repeat the pattern of the zebra. This signal
of safe crossing is haunted by images of lions
and zebra on TV. I question what safety means,
can’t bring myself to step off the curb.