Leslie Adrienne Miller

Phrased by Wolves

For as long as I can remember, the phrase my mother
has arrived in the gap between thought and speech
when I'm tired, trying too hard to make party chat
where the narratives spin, each from some burr
or knot on the one before, and we finger the mist
on the bottoms of our drinks as if the next way in
were written there.  My mother-- I know better
than to actually utter it, realize its role as place
keeper, cognitive stutter, cosmic comma.  It's not
the sonic hum of it that matters, or what semantic
underthings it might dangle in the room.
It's a door rocking open without agency,
a place where the wall of consciousness breaks
into blankness, and not, as we might expect
subconsciousness, though that is where speech
would go if thought did not snatch it back.
My mother never fits the talk at hand,
the spirals and eddies of mildly remarkable news,
so when the phrase rolls toward the precipice
of my tongue— my mother my mother my mother--
I can still kill it, knowing perfectly well
that if it gets loose, the others will turn to me
surprised, their own mother contexts spinning
for a fit, and finding none, raise
a wall of eyebrows.  Someday, however,
the tenacious phrase will simply gush, my mother,
my mother, like some warm and shocking
bodily fluid over the tongue's worn threshold,
will hitch itself to a sentence that has nothing
to do with she who bore me, will reveal itself as mere
reflex of mind akin to the knee's uncanny release
at the tap of the doctor's mallet, so the question is not
why my mother comes unbidden to the door,
but what will happen when she doesn't knock.