on attending a Marie Howe reading

By Terri McCord

The poet, hair massed
like moist cradling hay,
spoke first
of Mary, said                   we could all be mothers

of Jesus—quoting Meister
Eckhart. The podium flowers shed

as she read—small tufts
as from baby fowl.

My first bed was a drawer,
and, later, when I had a crib,
my mother left me belly-down,
legs        wish-boned
until      my hips turned ,

and I wore orthopedic shoes,
until told           they were unclean,
I washed them in the toilet—

as if they were small feet
I imagine now
I was trying to anoint.

She read as if her throat
were a well       dug deep.

She prefaced the next
poem with a pronouncement—
that she had adopted a toddler
at the age of fifty-three.
And I recognized
I am childless. Am I a mother?

And she read again       to the crowd
a last poem about a child lost
in a parking lot,
and I saw her, the poet, mouth to me
Now go forth, but no one noticed.

Terri McCord, of Greenville, is a South Carolina Arts Commission’s Literary Fellowship recipient, and the South Carolina Poetry Initiative published her chapbook In the Company of Animals in 2008. She has also won first place in the SC Poetry Initiative/The State Single Poem contest. Other publications or forthcoming publications include Connecticut Review, Cream City Review, Seneca Review, and Potomac Review.

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