you have not heard me when I shouted of the many self-incarnations which I've slunked off like proper clothes on a wild frame at day's end or something quite the opposite, but as it happens, I was entirely sincere. I have been quite a few women in my time, and not one of them has grown into much of her own being individually, although the whole of me has become mother.

they have become the photographic negative of my existence, some dark x-ray atmosphere which absorbs light, their hypnotic liquidity slowing time like the choreography of summer-stricken New Orleans movement, all languid and loose as if suspended. and I dance with them from afar, keeping time in a morbid pas de deux. I pirouette with a girl who yells bleary-eyed in a courtyard screaming for the neighborhood to hear, and scared they may respond. I lean into a girl flat on her back, pushing with might and grace and fear. in a corner keeping time is the sweet little one beneath covers, counting stars as her anticipation raced beneath the sky. like dancing, the sweaty floundering in the dark existence which has encapsulated these years of motherhood is breath-taking work requiring a reckless abandon coupled with precise footing. 

and I suppose it would be fair to say, indeed quite fair and altogether correct, that I unwittingly, unknowingly, wholly romanticize solitude. and by extension (my) womanhood. and (my) motherhood. and all (my) whole existence, for it hugs my expanded curves and seeking heart as if fitted in some small back room that only women know and can find. 

so it is, in this thick closing act of summer, before the earth heaves at last and coolness consumes the land, that I have found myself. whomever that may be. quite lost in the steps and off-beat. so it is that I come to ask you, what becomes of me? no course remains to follow back to a woman I've never been or have yet to become, and journeying becomes a quite blind act, some highwire trick. these rhythmless, groping times, perilous and yet thrilling, no? 

I did what I do: leaned into words which furnish my soul, clutching sounds in place of reason as potent persuasion twists my curls, an ill-assigned chaperone indeed. I wandered with melodies of daydreams, away from this limbo of my own creation, and into a more pleasant reverie, for the questions are the same: just where does this road lead?

rewetting my lips, I silently catalog my humble French,

gleaned exclusively in films my then-unloved guts felt like ricochets, snuck furiously

into the margins of journals, hieroglyphics

outside the dark theatre.

a volatile spirit in odd years, I learned Nina’s Non Me Quitte Pas

in a single train ride. her voice a blueprint for unrequited love.

I wore less color then, afraid orange would lie about me.

he’d assumed I spoke it well. I have the lips for it,

like anyone. 7’o’clock Paris time, the first of July. his eyes brazenly peeking

beyond my speckled shoulders, tender and hot,

with yesterday’s sun-drenched tonguing

snuck against walls and beneath overhanging flowers.

the girls nine paces ahead (they counted), mimicking a hopping bird nearby,

all blue and yellow spots out the corners of my eyes.

he smelled then of cedarwood and my coffee breath, both gifts –

now soap.

time never crept as slow to earth as that morning in the deli,

bag splayed open on linoleum, desperate for handling,

like me. his brow-beaten wrinkles dreamy with sweat,

paint-covered hands rolling a jar of pasta sauce across tiles –

it was not tomato season and we were running late, I told mother later.

foggy-eyed, parting lips, sweet pea, escaping my throat. my girl’s pigtails whipping

around the corner, her eyes wild lilac wine and secret tales. we raced out

hand in hand and dinner-less, two mad eels buzzing.

we hid behind the popsicle cart attendant

when he passed by us at the market the following weekend.

we met many merchants and farmers this way, 

our bags later heaped with embarrassment bouquets.

his left-hand’s fingers wrapped between a bespectacled girl-person’s, hiding

a possible gold band, and it would be an entire summer of markets

before I was truly his own, wily as any broken-souled thing.

do not leave me, I mouth into the pillow, musky with his sweaty sleep,

the sun’s whisper rays teasing new kissing alleys to be found.