Spring 2010, Volume 8

Poetry by Nicelle C. Davis

My Mother's First Orphaned Christmas

The bodies are dressed in green
and red. People comment on
what a good job the parlor
did painting the faces to look
lively. The viewing line is long.
Bride and groom lying next
to each other, waiting for their
long-car exit. Their eldest daughter,
            your sister,
bends to their stiff lips, cries—
a cup drops,
            the ceramic breaks
into halves. She thrusts herself
into the coffin, then
            her husband
collects her
            to composure.
There are a few acts
still left in our control. 


We won’t let our children near that shake in your hands, your swelling fingers—heart pushed to the ends of you. And yet—we want fistfuls of you—to keep like dirt behind our ears, a hum in the earth sung only for us. Brother is always attempting to save you, but I half-killed you years ago—read your addiction as a slow-suicide note safety-pined to my right eye. You’re not my mother / You are my mother. Dad is more your husband than our father. He takes you to late-night church service. You think Jesus is a tithing scam, but there’s something in the worship that relaxes that pinch in your chest. You complain about how the blood is not wine, but grape juice. You cry at the sight of nails pushed through flesh—cry out for the child taken from you. You sing, Amazing Grace, and the woman sitting next to you feels your voice like a hand upon her back. She let me hold her baby, you tell me on the phone. Thank God, for the fluke forgiveness of strangers.         


       bang on the table, manic screaming, convolutions of the body
       noun 37,508,686 casualties.  
       French in stereo-typed accent Dah-dah
a movement in art and literature based on (liquefied lungs) deliberate irrationality (too many dead to care about your one gone) and (who the fuck do you think you are to care) negation (this isn’t even your war) of traditional (not even your lost god) artistic values (the god you made to make you) ; also : the art (what art) and literature (means what) produced by (just another not dead counting bodies) this movement (of refusing sleep to make sure my son is still breathing as though my hands can do more than strangle). 


BIO: Nicelle C. Davis lives in Lancaster, California, with her husband James and their son J.J. She is currently a M.F.A. candidate at the University of California, Riverside. She teaches at Antelope Valley Community College.