Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

My Mother's Eye

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

My Mother's Eye

Article excerpt

POETRY

She kept it in its plastic case beside

her carousel of pills, the single contact

she wore in place of the left lens she lost

to a blown cataract. "I have to put

my eye in," she'd say, unscrewing the cap,

then would fish with her fingertip to find

that clear horizon submerged in its well,

a bubble she'd balance in the kitchen air.

She always winced inserting it, then clasped

her hands to her face as though it pained her

more than it possibly could. Before bed

it was the same, the ritual reversed,

my father stretched in his plastic-wrapped chair

watching the last of the ten o'clock news.

For twenty years I gauged her slow decline

when I'd come home, able to do nothing,

until with every visit I could trace

the lineaments of a greater distance

in the way she looked, the bride hollowed

from her glowing pose, her going under

a lone swimmer's turn away from shore.

Impossible to say what hurt her so

something burgeoning blandly in the pool

of her diminished past, some childhood blame

for a brother's death, self-placed, or forged

out of her parents' grief, though chance whispered

the virus into his ear, into his brain?

Or maybe it was the loss of a life

she'd planned without this husband, these sons? …

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