My Mother's Mother Dreams
Fled from Pa, his hands, his liquored breath. America! Escaped to mud,
to bitter cold, another man. A good man your sister says when you complain of your
husband’s demands, of his whiskey smell and heavy hands, with the baby sickly, crying,
day and night and day. That’s what men do — the drink, I mean.
As for the other, your man ain’t Pa.
The priest will tell you—his right’s your duty.
The baby at your breast becomes a way to fend him off. One day he says
I bought a gun. I bought a gun said in an offhand way a gun to kill myself
as if you might respond I baked three loaves of bread today.
Veiled in black, you walk behind the horse-drawn hearse, the baby in your arms.
shame shame shame shame Soft clucking sounds each step you take,
that long dusty walk to unconsecrated ground — his body forever unblessed —
the long dusty walk back, baby crying in your arms.
That night you dream
you float above the slack bodies of drunken men, their women’s grudging glances,
above the rude shelter you know as home. Scrubby popples bend
in the fierce night wind. You dream
you weaned the baby.
CJ Muchhala’s work has appeared in anthologies, art exhibits, print and on-line journals, and has been nominated for the Best of Net and Pushcart prizes. She lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin.