My mother wore a thimble made of copper.

My mother was a seamstress or a chamber-maid,

or market-girl or nurse or cotton picker,

or a washerwoman, fingers blistered red

from strangling sheets in lime and washtub water.

She disappeared through linen on the line

and like a mocking bird, I heard her laughter –

a teaspoon on good china, lady-fine.


My mother was a photograph. Her name

was Longing or Desire. She stumbled south

along the Parish Road, barefoot and shamed

in dirty lace, gin bottle to her mouth.

My mother was a hand in a long white glove,

the moment before the glove was pulled off –