Collect for March

by Kathy Nelson

Feral clouds spit        snow into wind.

On the massage table        from among the sinews of my neck        my mother rises
tiny        fragile        face slack        eyes adrift        gray hair flat and waxy.

The young hairdresser and I        on either side of her        hoist her from her wheelchair
execute        a synchronized three-person turn        lift her        almost nothing
into the only chair        of the single-sink salon.        She sits there askew        silent.
Weeks earlier        he flirted with her        swept her silver hair        into a Marilyn.
She smiled        answered        in the rhythms of language.        Anyone who knew her
could tell        she was flirting back.

I keep dreaming        poems about my mother        can’t tell which of us won’t
let the other go.

One summer        a copperhead appears beside the front step        coiled beneath a pot
of pink impatiens.        Now pages fill:        That the copperhead coils beneath the pink
impatiens        over and over.        The next line never comes.

My first day of school        I cry so long        the teacher comes        kneels beside me
tells me        my mother is coming to collect me.        Convulsing in my belly        slows
to ragged breathing.        A miracle:        She heard me crying!        She’s coming!
When she walks in        she shows the teacher her smiling face.        To me        she
the face of ice.

I will never get warm.

Copperheads hibernate        November to February        March now        Imagine
fully awake in their dens        waiting        for this frigid wind to stop.

Kathy Nelson is a poet living in Asheville, North Carolina. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in US 1 Worksheets, Off the Coast, The Cortland Review, Switched-on Gutenberg, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Kakalak, Tar River Poetry, and other print and online journals. She has two chapbooks: Cattails (Main Street Rag, 2013) and Whose Names Have Slipped Away (Finishing Line Press, 2017).

About Collect for March—I have begun experimenting with the notebook form, which entails separate entries that lead one to the next, interrelated but each existing independently. I find this fragmented form helps my too-linear mind address the emotionally difficult terrain I always gravitate to in my poems.