MY ECHO, MYSELF
The rusted radiator clangs like garbage can drums in the barrio.
Kitchen chairs upholstered in plastic lean under the table, legs akimbo.
I cook dinner concocted from nothing, and pray there’s some left for tomorrow.
Downstairs, she sits on an orange-crate chair of provincial pretense,
serving make-believe guests out of paper cups crayoned in Wedgwood blue.
My makeshift desk is littered with bills so I flip a coin,
having learned the gymnastics of cascading credit, grieving each dollar’s farewell.
She’s perched beside me, surrounded with scrips and scraps scissors and paste,
laying out a collage on the rump of discarded mail,
a slivered eyebrow, a jack-o-lantern mouth, and hair of frayed wrappings.
It will join the others as a mural of sorts, her homemade Madonna of joy.
At night, sirens howl like banshees, demanding their share of disaster.
Baritone rumblings dance an ecstasy of love or brutality over my bed
and I clutch at my knees, fighting the rush of remembrance.
Early risers hawk their wares, playing a marimba on the window bars,
while she emerges in a rhapsody to sing a song of exaltation.
Motherhood was a shove through untested ice, and I kept moving so as not to die,
foraging, then adapting like a shark in my sandpapered skin.
She is trying out life like a dolphin at play, savoring each morsel of bliss,
and I am loathe to tell her otherwise, for it would break her heart, and mine.
Beth Staas, 80, of Westmont, Illinois is a retired English teacher who started writing poetry only about ten years ago. She is president of Poets and Patrons in Chicago, plus a member of two other poetry groups. She says, “Before all that I was intimidated, thinking that poetry was too lofty for one such as me.” A few of her poems have been published and/or won awards. Her sign of the zodiac is Aquarius.