Mother, I’m here with your painted copy of a Cezanne still life
that hangs over the dry sink you bought
with my father years before
I was born.
Did you get what you needed for yourself, did you free
your own good hand, leaving the laundry
and roast beef to marry the grain
of the table, whisk the cloth
to creamy white peaks? And with what abandon and delight
did you take hold of your palette knife to slather
the lemon with slabs of Chrome yellow?
I hope you lost yourself
relieving the emptiness between the jug and the teapot,
that you stopped worrying about me for the sake
of the shallot. Though you always did
come back to worrying about me.
You never let me see you paint. In the corner, a dribble
of taupe fell from your brush. I run my finger
over the dried slope to stroke myself
back to you, take the frame down
from the wall to search for your signature.
Nothing but your ghost hand still
painting the incurable distance.
On and on and on.
And at the center of a grief
I see how light dances
on the belly
of the jug.
Wendy Drexler’s third poetry collection, Before There Was Before, was published by Iris Press in 2017. She’s the poet in residence at New Mission High School in Hyde Park, MA, and a programming co-chair for the New England Poetry Club. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, J Journal, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, The Mid-American Review, The Hudson Review, The Threepenny Review, The Worcester Review, and the Valparaiso Poetry Review, among others; featured on Verse Daily and WBUR’s Cognoscenti; and in numerous anthologies.