She saved the throbbing snake on her forehead
just for me.
It took energy to scream like an off-key piano.
She played that music often.
The handprints she put her whole body into
were small and lovely on my face,
delicate in the tracing outline,
blood filling white sting slowly with color.
My sisters were cowards, always crouching,
pinching their corners tighter.
Their shoulders slumped and shrunk
from her afternoons of swift gifts,
blue eyes too pale with summers of fear
and quick rabbit breaths sucking the blackness
too willingly from misery’s fingers.
But I was worthy of her art,
my heart stiff and brilliant in her burning.
She saved the terror for me and I held it,
held the scream in the palm of my hand.
Never flinching, never confessing.
She taught me survival
and how to pull strange waves from my deeper self.
I think my mother must have loved me the best.