By Claressinka Anderson
Sometimes hope is a fox, a glimpse of rust in the leaves, a longing for a place no longer mine. Snow gathers in a wedge of stone cut hair, in the park where I wore little shoes.
I don’t take photographs anymore.
You rode your bicycle to pick me up from school, a perfect brown package in the basket. Yeast dough pastries. Some with blueberries, with poppy seeds, yellow apples.
At home, you liked to “straighten” them in the pan, perfect quadrants at a time. A way to aestheticize your guilt, less shame for eating more, cutting pieces of joy, for yourself. At school, I won the award for the only student on a bicycle.
The huntress turns grey now, her bronze arrow poised at the snow moon rising. I feel the quiet in my blood, the cold seeping into the roses. Their petals like skin, veiled in snow. A temporary blanket for Diana and me.
Yesterday, I read you my poem and you cried. You miss your mother and her hands. I miss them too. Her smooth brown skin and the smell of cigarettes on her clothes, the continuous, faint alcohol on her breath, the way she wrapped me in a towel and held me close. I miss midnight apples in her bed, complicit in the belief they cleaned my teeth. I miss the Benny Hill Show and Murder She Wrote and secret dentures on the bedside table.
Dear Mama, I miss you too.
London will never be what we remember. It no longer belongs to us. The bright black clouds, the blissful, dreary river. The willow, the birch, the tulip gardens in spring. Queen Victoria, the morning frost, even the swans, they are not ours. I cannot hold your hand in the rain, cannot feed the ducks or peer up to see the shop windows at Christmas. They are still there, but they are no longer mine.
Los Angeles likes to put her hand up my skirt, press her wild palm against my underwear. She is the perfect seductress, but London, she will never release me.
In the park, I look for foxes.
Your mother loved Los Angeles. I imagine her by the pool, 1972, cigarette in hand, inhaling freedom in a new swimsuit. London never fit her the same way. The Hollywood sun obscured her loneliness. The lemon trees. It’s harder to forget death in the dark.
A ladybug lands on my bag. Everything is white. Beruška.
Her red crocheted shopping bag still hangs in my office. Apple strudel hands. Food can be a way to remember, to forget. Ice cubes in her wine. A straightening.
London, please come back.
The opera house in a blue satin dress, Father in a perfect suit. Little sandwiches never so exciting, and when I fell asleep, he carried me home. This is before I knew rigidity. A softness still, to his face. A pinstriped mustache and cushioned smile. A tracing of my brows with his fingernails.
“You could have been a star,” he told me. Remember that? I stopped dancing long ago. I did not become a star.
A flash of red through the leaves.
Your hair was dark save the skunk strip of grey you worked endlessly on hiding. Your nails were always perfect. Red.
Like the color of our old door, it stands bright in the momentary whiteout.
Don’t come too close fox, or you might be lame, stay in the bushes, where I can barely see you, skim through the stones, the fountain. Stay in the woods where you belong– no place for you here. I cannot feed you in this house, on these steps, where I no longer live.
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