You can see us here, drifters,
three entire continents of emotions
under one single roof. More, if you count
relatives scattered here and there like islands:
Grandma, who speaks a foreign language,
the language of the old.
Grandpa, worn soft by nine decades of erosion.
Our edges are not as smooth as theirs are.
Sometimes I feel like the Rock of Gibraltar,
both tourist attraction and gate to the underworld.
My words are as sharp as rocks.
Across the room, my son is a Florida key,
separated from me by 300 million years
instead of forty. I want to hold him
until he forgets I am made of flesh and bone.
My husband is nothing if not Antarctica.
The other day, I looked into his eyes and saw ferns.
Fossilized, they spoke volumes,
the words coming out of his eyes
instead of a mouth that clammed shut
as he watched his wife and son fight—
breaking plates as if they were just china.
There was a time when we were a supercontinent.
There was a time when I let the water crash at my feet,
inviting father and son to splash in it.
Look at us now, just spilling off the map.
The Moral of the Story
The little boy who cried wolf
was my brother, and when I found his entrails
on the front lawn I lined them up in rows
like cups in a cabinet
or tampons in paper box.
My mother told me to get back in the house.
Under the couch, I found my brother’s favorite ball.
I bounced it until the ceiling got a hole
and heaven glared through in all its glory.
But I didn’t climb up.
Jack of Beanstalk fame may have tried,
but his mother was my cousin and I know
that she beat him when he got back.
On the other side of town,
a young girl followed her mother
from room to room, my mother told me,
while I patched up the hole in the ceiling
with pieces torn from my own trunk
until I looked like a piece of Swiss cheese.
My brain kept ticking, though, like a clock
or a metronome as I counted the holes
while my mother painted the ceiling.
The girl on the other side of town
had not just cried wolf but had lain with one
and let him touch her in all the wrong places.
The hole her mother put in her head
kept her home after that,
my mother told me, and she grew up—
oblivious to the sound of wolves calling
or to children crying wolf and meaning it.
For Albert Huffstickler
There is no furniture in her room,
save the shelf where her hymen lies
like a geological specimen.
The museum is her mother's.
Flaunting her proprietary rights,
the mother ignores her own signs
that say "do not touch."
Jealousy, pride, awe, confusion:
this is what the mother feels.
The girl feels her insides turned inside out.
Her face is inside her belly,
her belly where her lips should be.
Her eyes must substitute for her heart.
The fluorescent lights never shut off.
The mother is turned inside out as well.
Instead of being content to push this girl
right out of her fertile womb,
as far away as she can go,
she wants to climb inside her daughter
and stay there.
She wants to get there first.
There is no father.
Bio: Felicia Mitchell, a poet who teaches at Emory and Henry College and lives in rural southwestern Virginia, is the author of three chapbooks, including The Cleft of the Rock (Finishing Line Press) and Earthenware Fertility Figure (Talent House Press). Her poems tend to explore women's lives, the memory, different voices, and nature.