"Columbus Mistakes Manatees for Mermaids and Describes Them
as 'Not Half as Beautiful as They Are Painted'"
from This Day in History (first posted 11.04.09)
The same way my mother mistook her life
for the ones she read of in Redbook, for the rosy
resolution of the soap opera she watched
every weekday afternoon.
It certainly was Another World, the place
she stepped into for a ring and a promise
of happily ever after. She woke, surprised,
from a bed of thorny disappointment.
She loved fairy tales as much as I did,
slipping into “Cinderella” as easily as into
a custom-crafted satin shoe. It might be why—
when she dreamed that dream shortly before
she died—she woke restored, face flushed with joy.
She struggled to put it into words the real world
could understand: I dreamed you and I were playing
with dolls, she said. We were so happy.
Little Red Myth
There was no wolf, just an old collie called Mike
and a parrot named Polly who swore like my grandfather.
I rarely wore red and carried a basket only once—
an aunt’s wedding. Who arrived in disguise?
Cornstalk roots were drenched with used transformer oil
my lineman grandfather brought home in bottles,
dirty, potent sludge to slay his garden pests.
The perfect rows of sweet corn, forever stained
with rogue cells, stole into my grandmother’s veins.
Leukemia. It ate her up, purple blotch by purple blotch until
her skin marbled like meat only a butcher could redeem.
No hunter came to save her; the skies opened up
an avalanche of tears and made the cornstalks shiver.
My grandfather continued telling the same old tale:
Grandma’s getting better.
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