I stare at the wrinkled photograph, curling at the corners,
my mom and I sitting on the old wooden porch,
my hand to my forehead above tiny squinted eyes,
it must of been one of those stuffy hot summer days
that seems hung in bees’ legs sticky with honey,
when the sky is hard and brittle as if ready to crack open,
smothered under a candy coating that muffles the breeze.
I must be no older than four and of course no smile,
but I never did back then, not on one single picture,
my mother has no smile either,
her arms crossed over her swollen pregnant belly,
and we both have the same empty stare,
as if our thoughts had floated out of our bodies to elsewhere,
and then I see the crowded clothesline hanging heavy.
We were too poor to own a washer and dryer
so every Saturday mama scrubbed all our week’s ghosts
by hand on a washboard, the knuckle buster, she called it,
then she’d haul the heavy basket of dripping wet clean clothes
out to the backyard to spread them across the clothesline,
I remember stretching up on tiptoes, wishing I was taller and stronger,
trying to help the best I could by passing her the clothespins.
I can still hear her singing hymns about Jesus saving the world
as if she was hanging up broken souls,
perhaps a little bit of mine so she could finally see me smile,
but I really think she was hanging up all of hers,
cause what my mother never knew is that I was always there,
always listening behind her closed bedroom door,
all those nights she had cried herself to sleep.
© Naomi Sara 2022
My dad travelled all the time for work leaving my English speaking mom stranded in a French Quebec, where she didn’t understand a word and couldn’t communicate with anyone, alone to raise us three children. She would hide away to cry a lot.