“Tissue” by Berwyn Moore
for my mother, Connie Moore
As though to convince us she’s still game,
my mother pulls from her coat pocket
a lemon, blue with mold, and tosses it,
a perfect serve, to the ceiling. Her eyes
glimmer, for just a moment, and she’s
back on the court, thirty-love, muscles
poised to swing, but the lemon thuds
to the floor, and she falters, then crumples
to her chair, here but not here, the threads
of her brain tangling into hard knots.
She arrives at the table singing Jesus loves
me and lavished with every necklace
and bracelet she owns – pearls, garnets,
silver charms twinkling on her chest
and arms – but no skirt over her worn slip.
She shushes us, her conniving daughters,
for whispering secrets behind her door,
then for two hours she stands at the sink
and scolds us, scrubbing the disposable pan
we used and tossed in the trash to save time—
nothing goes unclean in her kitchen.
Now, she occupies herself with toilet paper,
gently tearing off each square, folding it first
in half, then in quarters, and stacking them,
hundreds of pink and green squares, corners
painstakingly aligned in five-inch pillars.
She arranges them in bowls and wicker baskets,
on window sills and under her bed. She assembles
them like sentries next to the china teacups—
for special occasions, she says, never certain
when the king of Nepal may show up for dinner.
We leave the stacks, undisturbed, grateful
for what she hasn’t lost: her need for order,
the folding of grace in her lap, the gifts
her hands still know how to make by heart.
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Berwyn Moore’s Artist Statement: Berwyn Moore won the 2015 James Dickey Prize from Five Points Journal. She has published two poetry collections, O Body Swayed and Dissolution of Ghosts (Cherry Grove Collections), and edited the anthology Dwelling in Possibility: Voices of Erie County. She served as the inaugural Poet Laureate of Erie County, Pennsylvania, from 2009 to 2010. Her poems have won awards from the Bellevue Literary Review, The Pinch Literary Journal, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, and Negative Capability Press. She has poetry and prose published in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Journal of the American Medical Association, Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review and Public Health Reports. She teaches English at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.