My momma cuts virgin switches with her gums,
because the stars over Alabama are her teeth,
rotted out of her mouth one at a time. If they
had fallen to the ground they would have formed
trees, but what does her body know of gravity?
My momma believes that god is judge, and the man
who dragged her body into the woods wasn’t her
husband. I just laugh at her tears and wait for my turn
in the pine. My momma’s face is the sunken-cheeked
moon at night. It watches me pretend to smoke
cigarettes at the railroad tracks like her.
I whisper my fears to her—she tells me
her lungs aren’t black. Instead they orbit the southern
sun like planets. You can see them from a telescope
if you can afford it. At night she waits up on the
couch burning circles in her blanket when she nods
off. My momma always snaps her neck up because
she fears she won’t wake. She calls the doctor
at the pain clinic. He takes her money then helps
her stop chewing her fingers. My momma counts pills.
When I feel my monthly blood, she hands me one.
Erin Carlyle’s work has been featured in many literary magazines, and her recent chapbook was published with Dancing Girl Press. She holds a MA in Literary and Textual Studies from Bowling Green State University and a graduate certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies from Western Kentucky University. At the present, she is pursuing her MFA in Poetry from Bowling Green State University.