My mother was beautiful when I was young.
In pictures she wore pearls.
I remember her putting on sky-blue eye shadow,
Even her eyebrows beautiful,
like the Arc de Triumphe.
And her ruby brooches,
And her stain glass blouses, rhinestones glinting on her silver shoes,
Hat plush with black feathers.
I loved dressing up in the Eve
Of her gowns,
so that I, too, could be beautiful.
One day my mother cleared away all her Cinderella clothes,
the gauzes of her spring,
Her rubies were not rubies, she vanished from pictures.
The mirror forgot her, saying I was the beautiful one,
my face rising into hers, hers falling from mine.
My mother carries her face through the world
Unphotographed, hook of spine crushing the softness inside her;
mother-and-fatherless, uncertain in her bones,
afraid of sidewalks, left turns, yellow lights;
body packed for the small
space of the future.
For a long time now, I have been the beautiful one,
My mother’s face in mine like a relic.
I hold the stick of her arm.
In her face the last energy of sunset, skin unanchored to the bone
that must have made her beautiful once, the girl from another century who looks/stares back
at me from pictures and who does not know me.
The one who wears apricots and powder yellows, standing on the overexposed grass
Of another century, next to the azaleas that have forgotten their pink.
It always seems to be Easter,
the radiant sky blanched white.
My mother who isn’t my mother yet, smiling at whoever is taking the picture,
Not knowing my face will rise from hers, hers fall from mine,
as she looks from the brightness into the future's
long darkness, when the world will never again flock,
like a dove,
to the soft nest of her face.