Her Porcelain Skin: Poem by Laura Schulkind24 Jul 2017, Posted by Poetry in
Art: Martha Winterhalter
HER PORCELAIN SKIN
I can’t believe you are here—
her first words to me,
the first day of the last days,
looking up from the bed that swallowed her.
Words I keep coming back to.
Couldn’t believe I would come?
But where else would I be?
Where else could I be?
There was no choice in it.
No idea. No plan.
Her dying wakens my inner salmon,
inner homing pigeon, inner whale.
Coded to return here.
Brush, brush her hair.
Wet her lips.
Lie beside her and count her slowing breaths.
In the end as in the beginning,
she becomes my entire world,
and the child’s desire that I am hers,
while she is already doing what a mother does,
She asked me
if I thought she would be dead
this time next week.
I said yes.
I knew this,
but did not know this.
How else could I have answered
as if she had asked whether I thought
it was going to rain?
I said yes, and yes again,
lengthening that moment between us.
One last blunt truth-telling.
One last intimacy.
I had forgotten her dreaming face,
her unstrained face,
her peaceful face.
In her studio,
rolling porcelain petals,
joining them with a lick of her tongue,
building them into shapes so thin,
sunlight would wake them.
Her face before worry,
before anger at her own body,
before her long and ungentle going.
I had forgotten her joyful and expectant face,
until the first moment
after her last breath.
I thought I had prepared myself—
braced for the horror of her corpse.
But I did not know death would sweep away
the furrows and creases
that had become my mother’s face.
I was not prepared for the beauty of that moment.
Her lips just parted.
Her skin smooth and translucent,
like porcelain catching sunlight.
About the author:
Laura Schulkind is an attorney by day, where she is entrusted with others’ stories. Through poetry she tells her own. Her chapbook, Lost in Tall Grass, was released by Finishing Line Press (May 2014). Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and can also be found on her website: www.lauraschulkind.com.
Martha Winterhalter, San Francisco, @marthawinterhalter.