I ask her what changes when I turn off the light
and she says, Go ahead.
I ask what else and
she says, According to whom?
She won’t tell me anything
because she thinks I know nothing.
In life, she told me to have faith
but never told me Goodbye. Nor,
perhaps more importantly, Daughter,
I’m going to die young and rip
apart the linen spool of time,
even though I was the one
who bothered to convince you
it was real in the first place.
Now, in death, she only says things like,
You’ll ruin the wall doing that.
She has become a limitless
magic eight ball of disappointment.
If I ask about dying
she says, In the cosmic sense?
None of this matters to her.
To her it feels like the lights
are always on, like
no one is lying in wait.
But here I am, lain, waiting.
I want to hunt her, to render her
unconscious with an actual rock.
Small and dear—my prisoner
in the Taiga of Unreality forever.
There are logistical issues, of course.
Where to hide the rock, find her head.
And then there is the matter of infinite regression.
The rampantness of logical sequences
with essential but unidentifiable beginnings.
Endless chains of justification
that beg you to trust.
How does one go forward knowing
such a trespass of knowledge is possible?
On my fortieth birthday,
my mother will have been alive
for less than half my life.
Sixtieth, less than a third.
The graph of her deadness
over my aliveness
descends infinitely toward the axis.
What comes first, I ask her.
How much of this is quantum and
How much the way you taught me
to halve an English muffin with a fork?
But all she ever says is
In the dark I can’t confirm or deny you.
Now she may as well be muffins, forks, knitwear.
She is an infinite regression
nestled in the Siberian Gulf of Uselessness.
She’s always one more year not alive.
They call this the anniversary of her death
but anniversary implies an addition, a gathering,
a line rising at a forty-five degree angle
from the horizontal at which it began.
That is no longer the graph we have
here before us. Look at this, I say to her,
the downward slope of your no-longerness
over my still-hereness.
You are one more year forward
from nothingness, one more year less.
She shallows, roils.
Airplanes can no longer reach her.
We sit in a deciduous kind of silence.
I consult the magic eight ball for answers
sent straight from the boreal forest.
A glowing purple triangle reads:
Today is not an anniversary.
But there is no word that means the opposite.
Finalist in 2014 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize
Anna Llewellyn Coe