Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook “The Belly Remembers”, and two full-length volumes of poetry, “Wild Domestic” and “Moraine”, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac and other publications. She is thrilled to have recently retired from teaching English and French in a Los Angeles high school.
We howled out against the pain
when Mother rubbed the red wand hard
against our soap-scrubbed wounds.
She tugged our loosening teeth
before they were ready, pulled them
with a yank that echoed in our skulls.
She ripped Band-aids off
before we even knew, taking scabs
and arm hairs with them. I feel her
watching from beyond right now
as I try to tell you: Go, let me live my life!
But I use Bactine, not iodine, and you’re
like one of my children’s teeth
that I wouldn’t pull until it was
swinging-door loose. Our life together –
a Band-Aid for loneliness, now frayed.
Pull it off! I hear my mother say.
Still I wait for the gum to loosen
so I won’t have to speak
these stinging words.
What is this cord that ties me to this shore
these rocks, this tide that bangs against the pier
this land I long to leave and see no more –
ah, I have made this promise every year.
I count the times you’ve aggravated me
the many ways you’ve chafed and weighed me down
but still you clung as though you could not see –
aloof to warnings, deaf to anger’s sound.
Yet still I stay as tethered to this bark
with eyes that churn and long for open sea
for in the hold some deep rope ties my heart
and binds us fast, like roots that hold the tree.
If I could cut this tie I’d do it so
my ship adrift, I’d gladly watch it go.