Catherine Pritchard Childress
I bathed and lotioned you to a pink sheen,
sponged away milk curdled in your folds,
dressed you in starched linen and leather
lace-ups—shoes mailed, with coupons clipped
from a Gerber cereal box—to be bronzed
so they could flank the photo your father
waited in the side-yard to capture.
He chose the cushioned rocker to prop you in,
dragged it out beside the fading Shrub Rose—
its blooms so much like my nipples, cracked
as your smacking lips drained my breasts
in twenty-minute intervals. Lullabies, rocking,
each day’s routine subject to your rhythm.
He snapped three shots to wind the film.
I posed you in the chair’s corner—certain
cherry arms and spindles could not keep you
from toppling heavy-head first into overgrown grass—
backed away from his composition, away from you.
Your constant hunger hanging heavy;
his, looming over a four-poster bed.
Your soured spit-up on my shoulder;
his musk between my thighs. Your weight
stretched like every month’s last paycheck
across my hips; his, thrust against them.
I didn’t tell you I needed my body back
from you—from him, didn’t tell you
lullabies are lies (pictures too),
that diamond rings turn brass; glass
breaks; babies fall; bronzed shoes tarnish:
and mothers disappear
just outside the frame.
Catherine Pritchard Childress lives in the shadow of Roan Mountain in East Tennessee where she teaches writing and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, The Cape Rock, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, Stoneboat, and drafthorse among other journals, and has been anthologized in The Southern Poetry Anthologies, Volumes VI and VII: Tennessee and North Carolina. She is the author of the poetry collection Other (Finishing Line Press, 2015).