The first time I saw my mother, she'd been dead
fourteen years and came as a ghost in the mirror,
plucking the hair beneath her arms, and humming
a bossa nova. She lotioned her chapped heels
and padded her bra as if she were alive in the old way.
She said I was born with my cord wrapped
around my neck like a rosary, and she knew God,
the doomed father of her days, wanted us both.
Before midnight she plaited my hair, hemmed my skirt,
sang lullabies she'd learned on the other side of the flood.
She lifted her dress to show her bones shedding light
on a stillborn fetus accidentally raptured into her ribs.
She said she'd choose her death again, obey any pain
heaven gave her. Years ago she watched a man ride
a diving bell to the bottom of the Amazon to face
the mysteries God had placed there. The chain broke,
and they pulled him to the surface smiling, stiff, refusing
to open his fists. They broke and unpeeled his fingers.
No one wept or fought to hold it. She covered her eyes
so she wouldn't see what God, in his innocence, had done.