Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Mother Plays Solitaire While I Lie Awake in the Next Room Waiting For the World to End

My Mother Plays Solitaire While I Lie Awake in the Next Room Waiting For the World to End

I love the way she shuffles,
imagine shiny cards arcing up into
curve between thumb
and forefinger;

perfect cuts of paper
obey her like soldiers,
ruffle into a sound like satisfaction,
like control.  She shuffles

random, shuffles chance,
shuffles luck.
She bangs the deck
on the table, two,

three, four times, cuts the stack
like a slab of butter, bangs again,
her gavel of judgment.

Deals off the top,
one two
one two three

one two three four
all facedown, hidden,
mirror-twin bicyclists
peddling like mad  --

then the starter card, face up:
fat moment of fate hanging
between what could be, what is.
My mother’s totems

are red and black,
hearts, spades, clubs,
diamonds, slick ritual
spells against desperation.

She works with what
she’s dealt:  thumbs three cards,
slaps down, makes use,
makes do.  Three more.

And three more.  Threes
and threes like the Father
the Son the Holy Ace
as if her life and the lives

of her children and grand-
children depend on these
hands shuffling, dealing,
thumbing, slapping, banging. 

As if my mother saves the world
card by card, game
by game.  She knows if she
loses it only lasts until the next

shuffle.  Knows if she wins,
the game’s never over.
Some women knit their
sanity together every day

with yarn and the clackery
of angry needles.  Some women 
solve crossword puzzles.
Chainsmoke Pall Malls.

Whatever witchery makes
a way to carry on: go on mothering,
grandmothering through storms that
cannot calm, brokenness that cannot

heal.  My mother plays solitaire,
ignores The Joker she’s exiled
off to the side like a naughty child.  
Soon, she knows,

she’ll have to let him back
in but for now she shuffles,
shuffles, shuffles cards, a sound
like wings, like time being killed,

like the odds will be better
tomorrow and I lie in my bed,
listen hard, learn 
the art of prayer.

             - Deborah A. Miranda

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