Reetika Vazirani


he cleaved to her neck
she turned the Rolodex
always thought of some rescue
sponsor me father     health like mercury
in a tin thimble
rest came and went
between pushing
for the keep-me star
morning her head clicked
like a well-turned clock
for calm she took white chestnut
lavender grass
checked the sun
Verrazano bridge traffic
once nothing fazed her
now everything’s shifted
no sleep     feeding two plus

he’s a god and I’m errands


at the Henry J. Austin clinic on North Warren
she took a paycheck stub
got examined for twenty-five dollars
no one below the poverty line wondered
if she was Krishna’s ambush
of longing     Radha opened the door
signed her name     time in time out
blood pressure hormone levels pap
dreams of homeopathy
when the nation was less HMO
more natrum muriaticum pulsatilla
nux vomica     less the three-hour pharmacist
line     Bristol-Myers Squibb
funny taste in her mouth

she ate a hot meal
on the playground
bench in the sun
it had been like this before he was born

I took it for granted
all I knew was flight
when I thought I had forever ahead of me
acres of working girls
he chose me from
I said yes because he wanted me to

other mothers at the clinic
some with two children in a stroller
bus pass and no lunch     and me
I say god to be wed to the dream
of an avatar     what could be worse?
listen it could be if god sent no money


the love link of resentment
our child in this echo chamber
thirty-nine windows two stairwells three of us
like the Armada with no one on empire-watch
digs more overrated than all the clothes in the world
I wonder what women at the back of the bus thought
of last century’s courtesans     Jackie     Imelda

and where was my mother in that pageant?

did I choose the man to check my father
check     check-mate     fall off the board
I load my mother memory back in
click click     the way I felt
at her table     she’s silent     I played maid
sixty phone calls away from telling her
as I am from leaving him now


between the pink housedress of The Young
and the Restless to the Tower of Babel
the pharmacy called her name     either that or
three dirty martinis to get through the baby’s hunger cries
cars squawking round the house
fruit punch     cheese doodles     donut boxes
in the yard     we rage over each other


each morning the little boy slipped
his hand to her shoulder
a there-there mamacita
look in his eye
the thumb’s chakra
says we are one even if
only for an instant     take it in
call it more than affect


from the depths of motherhood
she could not find one minute to spare
she wanted to know one other mother
there was no one on that London block
so cold the phone froze on its hook
she knew how it could happen     oven door
laudanum sleep flew through her needle’s eye
she did not dream
rose to a bottleneck of errands     five o’clock
dinner meat frozen solid     moon rise


some feedings went well
he kept milk down     was allergic to nothing

she spies her double in the danger ward
compares herself to others
in the health line wrapped in a single helix
around the Federal Building
she believed she could be this sick
only once     god have mercy
squirrels gnawing on the attic beam
close to the head’s tripwire
her left hand stealing from her right
she wanted him to ask
instead of telling her how to feel in his house
the house haunted by a former seller
family photos     a knife in the laundry room

forget every bit of floral lace lipstick and any other
buffer between glamour and being done for


moving out     a list of joys     book of late gratitudes
a round robin collage’s loose threads
little curiosities     the more she withdrew
the more he understood her
sent greetings on the fly
museum gift shop greeting cards wish you were here
sorry for all the troubles in the careworn world
when we’re apart I love you better


one public photo
and the dress she chose
red sari the arrow through elegance
he sent one black pearl     her valentine
the smaller the gesture the deeper it hit


for one year she loved
her son bean by bean
began to grasp the maze of feedings
a mother’s handiwork
in her arms a lion’s capacity
giving the man her last best vibe
and he ran with it     the muse
left her his psyche for housekeeping
she finally got it and left

look at what you’ve made of Radha
your own painting
of joy     don’t forsake mindfulness
feed yourself first
let the blue god
fend for himself for a while

she did it
in the ambush
of days     she took it in
and her heart did not race
she woke south of the mind     with summer’s
lemon neroli     essence of olive

how skin learned to hold the given bones
breathe love eat fortify burn
hold mother man and son
to her sternum and stay there