My mother hanging sheets on a line
in ’47. The wind believes it won the war,
just like the rest of America,
and swirls her black hair in a manner
the photo likes to recall.
Her simple skirt and blouse
are proud of her youth.
The train in the background
leans no direction in particular,
as if it had decided to stop running
from its troubles. My mother insists
it isn’t her. The train is dead
and can’t be asked. I’ll have no luck
tracking down the wind. The sheets
resemble every silence we spread
across our beds.
But it looks like other pictures of her
at that time. One in which she’s killing
a bear. One in which she’s teaching algebra
One in which she’s jumping from a plane
with no parachute or fear. It isn’t me,
she says of an expression
that makes me self-conscious:
whoever took the photo
was hoping to touch her,
and she was hoping to be touched.
I say that based on decades
of living with faces, mine
and a few others. At the end of desire,
my mother hides from its birth.
Burn it with everything else,
she says. She’s my mother.
I remember she raised
an intelligent and moral child.
I say yes. I lie.