The Mothers
Olive Mae

She divorced my grandfather
and found Jesus in 1936.
Created a religion
of Christianity and gardening.
Welcome black-eyed susans
as grandchildren come to visit.
I'd sit amidst the Queen Anne's Lace
and watch her. A dress purpled by Virginia
bluebells, hand stitching around the collar.
When she bent over the morning glories
I'd sometimes lose sight of her.
I wonder now how she stayed so long
with a man who beat her every weekend.
Perhaps she believed the azaleas
and he sprouted from the same source.
He died alone in a hotel along
the Cape Fear river with one suitcase,
honorable discharge papers, a comb,
a toothbrush, and a picture of my mother.

Mattie Louise

After her nervous breakdown.
she began to sleep with her psychiatrist.
He gave her the courage to divorce
my father. Four children not enough to keep
her sane and submissive. She left
him too, along with her contempt
for California with its desert,
and moved us all back to Virginia Beach.
My sister and I taught her to curse
and drink at disco bars that she visited
like butterfly gardens, fluttering
like a frittilary from milkweed
to goldenrod to purple coneflowers.
She'd sip frozen drinks like nectar-bearing
flowers. All those years teaching
at Arthur Murray finally paid off.
She looked like a painted lady

dancing with a thistle: blissful.
Something in the way
she laughed told me that.

Maria Louise

I have tried to hate men like a good daughter,
but hope is a thing with feathers,
and I've been with a loyal redhead
for fourteen years now,
twelve of them good.
I understand the mallard who
protects his mate with his life
is of the same species
as the mallard who rapes.
In the field they both look the same:
glossy green head, white neck ring,
yellowish bill, orange feet.
I fell in love with an osprey once,
until he came back one summer
with an accidental stray from Baja.
These fine-featured men,
always wanting to display brilliant patterns,
rather than what lies beneath-
in the dark it rumbles,
sometimes tramples.

Maria Garcia Tabor