Mother of Darkness

She is a wise old woman
with precise hands.
She is clever and slow.
She has all the time.

She is a wise old woman
who can hear perfectly.
She waits for me in a calmness
I can only imagine when I’m ill.
Then I hear her whispering.
She has a low whisper like branches.

She’s also a little crazy.
She takes off her shirt
in the lobby of the Time-Life building
and almost gets arrested.
She runs across rooftops on Forty-Fifth street,
spotting transvestites and pimps.
She hangs on the poles with them,
strutting in a short dress.

She takes showers and still smells
under the arms. She shaves
in the summer, wears flowered shifts,
and has her picture taken
with uptight young men who are skinny
and afraid of women.

And she gives out her number to people
she doesn’t know and makes them lose it,
and when they go to call her,
they feel secretly relieved.

She’s matchless on a pool table,
has every one of her teeth.
She’ll laugh at anyone’s jokes
even when they put their faces
up close to hers and smell of scotch.

She will accommodate.
Yes, she will accommodate.
She will slide around the kitchen
in slippers and not ever rattle
a pan, and you won’t hear the radio
station she plays, the morning talk shows,
because she plays them so low, they sound
like your own breath, in sleep.
Donna Wolf-Palacio’s recent book of poetry, What I Don’t Know, was published by Finishing Line Press. She received an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has published and taught in Philadelphia and New York.

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