Lotioning My Mother’s Back
Because she lives alone and my hands reach
where hers can’t, she asks of me this favor.
It is narrow and soft, my mother’s back.
When I massage in small circles, my mother
circles her own mother, who is made
of whatever makes a shadow thin
and ungraspable. She wants to touch her.
The bones under my mother’s skin—ribcage,
scapula, spine—feel like sharp winter rain.
Between the clouds, I see a patch of sky, glimpse
my aging body: moles like a flicker
of paint, undersides of half-covered breasts,
patches of eczema my fingers soothe
with heavy cream. Is this what laying on of hands
means? Once my mother touched a garment
and said, full of an awe full of sadness,
She touched this, her skin was inside of this.
My mother’s back shines
like the hands I wipe on the towel’s face.
Weren’t miracles always beginning this way?
From Bluest Nude (Milkweed Editions, 2022). All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.