My Claim to Fame

Yes, everything I have ever written on this subject has been published.  Gotta hate it when your mother does something so interesting.  I mean, how am I supposed to compete?

The Kiss by Lyralen Kaye

I am sitting in the back seat dark

of the station wagon when I see

them do it, my mother leaning forward,

the fall of Sister Nancy’s veil, but even

in the dash lights their lips are visible as they

press together and hold. Their heads

tilt back and my mother’s face softens

as I have never seen it, her eyes pooling

forward, Nancy smiling. Have I ever

seen a smile? I see this and I memorize

everything—the coolness of vinyl beneath

my fingers, the shine of the dash, the station

wagon’s long tunnel. Nancy steps out and the

mother I know clicks back into place like a door

snapping home in the jamb. She calls

my name, saying, What’s the matter with you?

Aren’t you listening? Get up here! I climb

into the front seat, and hug the door away

from her. You’re awful quiet tonight, she says,

as if I have seen nothing. We both know I

am not quiet, but I am like her with my eyes

on women and the twin trails of these headlights

lead to a future we have left just minutes behind

and I know this like I know my name. I am 14 and I

am praying, Please, no, not this, not one more thing

that makes me different, not one more reason

for them to stare and point. Later, I get out of the

car, slam the door on everything my mother won’t

tell me. I stand alone in the schoolyard, listening

to the thumps of boys and balls. The air against

my body is cold and I cannot imagine the warmth

of a lover who might wait for me, growing, as I am,

each minute older and more lonely. I do not know

that when I find her she will hold me like all my hurt

is precious, tight in the safety of her muscled and hairless

arms, I do not know the way she will help

to heal everything, but most of all

my mother’s long silence. And because I don’t know

the way her voice will sound, lips full around a song

she will whisper, the one my mother

has never sung, I sing it to myself.


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