'Mask 2' by Jim Davis-Rosenthal
Mask 2, Jim Davis-Rosenthal, 1999.

 

 

How I Got Here
Christal McDougall

 

for my mother

 

Without even thinking, I know this:

 

She was smart but she acted dumb, pretended
she was less intelligent, listened to his voice,
held her ear at his mouth while he whispered
what he was learning in business:
economics, marketing, supply, demand;
kept her ear there
while he stuck in his tongue

 

She undid her pearls for him,
took off her sweater, let him
unfasten the buttons
and slip off her blouse

 

They did it in a car, they did it
in the frat house;
my father told the brothers
what they already knew—
cute Margie was holding back—
that prissy way she walks?
that’s Holyoke blood

 

I know it happened more than once,
he had to show her off,
had to get her where he wanted,
and she was playing dumb
and letting him come inside her
and letting him believe
she loved him

 

and letting him believe
she loved him

 

and one day I was there,
just cells, just a slight
puffiness below her navel,
a feeling of hangover in the morning
It was me growing there

 

and she let him believe
she wasn’t afraid

 

the way the cells, the part of me
that was not me
had fallen from the sky and heaven
and risen from stones and earth
and joined her where I loved her,
the sticky dark of her womb,
the safe ocean there

 

She acted less smart
than he was, but I know

 

her plan all along was to get me from him,
to pull me up out of nothing,
push me into the sunlight
and dirt of this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text © 1996, 1999 by Christal McDougall
"How I Got Here" first appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Volume II, Number 2. The work appears here by permission of the author.


Original Graphic Image, "Mask 2" © 1999 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal


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