HEATHER BOURBEAU

★ ★ ★ ★

POETRY

When I was a ghost

When I was a ghost, I followed my mother
young and scared, but not of death,
to the baseball field of the first brutality
she marked, to the yellow shirt,
or was it yellow dress,
that would haunt her, then her daughter.

When I was a ghost, I followed my mother
to the roots of scars she brandished like weapons,
peeling my innocence with each memory shared
(or created)—
a legacy of childhoods stolen.

When I was a ghost, I followed my mother
but never to corridors overly bright
where she was exposed, alone,
unable to wile,
where she would wear too small a gown
to cover the modesty she forgot to feel
when the doubt and pain got too loud,
drugs taken, drugs given.

When I was a ghost, I followed my mother
to the places where addiction ruled,
death hovered,
patient patient
casting hidden shadows
holding stolen breaths.

When I was a ghost, I followed and felt,
fled and folded.

When I was a ghost, I followed my mother
as she lay with regrets and bedsores
and organs easing into failure,
the morphine too accustomed to provide
the comfort dreams of hospice workers.

When I was a ghost, I followed my mother
to the sweet relief of her children abandoned
now at bedside.

And when I was a woman, I helped my mother
not so young and scared
move through bardo and end the hauntings.

Heather Bourbeau is an internationally recognized poet and short story writer. Her fiction and poetry have been published in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cleaver, Eleven Eleven, Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Chalkboard, Nailed, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. Her work has been featured in several anthologies, including Nothing Short Of 100: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story (Outpost 19), America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience (Sixteen Rivers Press), and Respect: Poems About Detroit Music (Michigan State University Press).

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