Introduction, or Mother is a word I was never meant to play with by Cassandra Howard

When I was a child, I called
her mother- a word that meant
dough rolled on parchment paper, washcloths
heavy with warm water across my back,
advocate of bedtime prayers, and smiles,
smile, smiles. The upward corners of her mouth
turned only for funerals
and dead pets. However,

reality was
what I wanted to believe, as if
playing with dolls.

I pick up mother doll and slide her
under a sheet next to father doll.
They sleep in a miniature house
where disappointments do not exist,
and when mother doll wakes up
next to father doll, I inch their heads
together, making kiss sounds to muffle
the clacking of their plastic lips.

When I stopped playing with dolls, I
met a woman living inside my mother
who cried for a man that left her
for someone else, cried for my father
who she had to leave for herself, and cried
for her children who might never understand.
The tears were always there, just sometimes
distracted by fierce love for her daughter,
her son. Even now

with knowledge of her past lives,
when my motherís eyes glaze over
with memories, and I am alone
in the room as she relives her yesterdays,
I realize I still do not know
Which woman is mother.

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