Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The pencil’s pressure, lead both hard and soft,
so there and not, I questioned
the very physics of the thing,
as if I were lifting,
like files to a magnet,
the image from beneath the onion skin,
what my mother called tracing paper,
material light as a veil and stiff
as her bridal gown.
How could both continue to exist?

Once, I showed her something so
unlike my traces, I believed
she’d deem it genius: watercolor
on cling wrap, like a new
stained glass. I said
I planned to enter it
into the school art competition. I was eight.
She encouraged me, instead, to submit
art we’d made together,
her hand more evident than mine.

Not long before
she died, I mailed her a portable
watercolor set. I found it unopened
at her two-room apartment after.
I took it and the few things
that fit in my suitcase.
We were ashamed of each other
in ways only intimates can be.
They say you cannot love another
until you love yourself,
but I’m not sure that’s true.
First, I loved my mother,
just as the one that drew and the one
that copied, by virtue of their separate
gazes loved, for as long as their attention
lasted, the original object
apart from them, whole only
for the duration of that gaze.  

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