after stockings and presents,
always the trip to the cemetery.
Mother, driving and silent,
the small green wreath beside her.
We cross white gravel,
stop beneath the cedar.
The gravestones look cold.
My young brothers bounce and scuffle.
Mother sits holding the wheel,
then lifts the wreath and gets out.
Be quiet, she says, and do not open the door.
Through the foggy window she kneels,
spreads her palms on the marble.
I wish she’d move me up front, to the seat where the wreath has been.
But we ride back home in silence. I know I am not to intrude.
I am almost eleven; no one I dare to ask.
Mother is busy as ever—clubs and lists and phone calls.
Lorene from next door gives me the news.
Your mother is pregnant, she snickers.
I start to watch the dresses she wears,
the bulge beneath the belt of her raincoat.
I stare at babies in strollers
and wait for Mother to tell me.
One night I wake up to sounds
coming from her bedroom,
my grandmother’s voice, Dr. Drew.
The next day, Mother’s alone in the bed.
Do you know what’s happened? she says.
Yes, I answer, my face turning red—
and still I wait for the baby.
Lorene laughs and explains,
Have you never heard of a miscarriage?
At a slumber party in eighth grade
they are pooling their information.
I listen with nothing to say;
inside I feel nothing but empty.
I want the “talk” with my mother.
One night when she’s reading in bed
I go in and sit on the edge.
Some friends have started their period.
Oh, she looks up and blinks,
well it’s all in the bathroom closet.
Then she returns to her book.
In ninth grade I shave my legs.
Well, she says, it’s your funeral.