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My Mother Speaks of a God  

Across the room, you sit
on the couch at the edge

of the cushion: your
black hair standing

straight up, your
eyes drifting somewhere

the four walls of this place.

You speak of a god,
how he provides for you,

how he has shown you
how to be generous

with your money. As you
say these things,

you rock yourself
back & forth

the way I do
when it gets too dark,

when I hear voices;
I know this look,

a river carved in rock
between your brows,

the same as my own.
I want to reach

out my hand & bless
this tender space

between us, but I do not
offer to tear enough sinew

to move us beyond you
lying in your bed,

after getting high,
face down, beyond

your furrowed
Fuck you

as you splattered amethyst
wine on my counter.

Big Mama
For Kim and Marie

even now
as she pushes these memories

around with her tongue
my mother hesitates; still

she tells me
about the way you jaunted

in your wheelchair with
a flung-open bible

& a secret
that on Sunday mornings

an ivory skirt billowed
over the stumps

that were your legs, that
you nursed your son

in his old age:
you both in twin wheelchairs,

his drooped face,
you brushed his greying,
wool hair.

As she sits, fifty-three & alone
in bed

my mother manages only
cool whispers

from the earth each

of your molecules,
summoning from me

tendon & heart-bone
to fill all the places you left her

E. Hughes is the first annual winner of the Mireyda Barraza Martinez Poetry Prize for Social Justice. She has poems forthcoming or published in The Antigonish Review, Joint Literary Magazine, and Matador Review. In 2017, E. Hughes became a Hurston/ Wright fellow.