Annmarie O’Connell

My mother was so poor

she couldn’t love me.
When we look at the one photograph
of her pregnant belly, my tiny body inside
her like a poisoned flower,
she always tells me: I wanted to end it.
All my life I’ve been a ghost
through the screen door
whipping my horse
across the finish line.

My mother was so poor
she rode a bus
through the Back of the Yards
all night with her mother, sisters
& brothers until her felon father sobered up
to maybe take a break from beating
all of them with a hammer.
Other days she slept
in a laundromat on 31st street
so he wouldn’t come
into her bed with his empty eyes.

When he touched my own body
I thought I’m simply part of the damned
no one save me.
But then the need grew for stars,
echoes of lilac, so now I tilt my head
to at least the look at the
illness destroying her insides
& I shake down a dream
where we disappear outback
by the low hanging branches.

In my dream she holds
her arms out & I run to her
needy & luckless.
The whole damn universe
weighing me down
when I let her squeeze me
for the very first time
but it’s still
Please don’t go.