Palimpsest

After Adrienne Richs Diving into the Wreck

Lacing my fingers through hers, my mother
navigates our adjoined hands. 
Together, we read the book of myths.

I know what this book is for.
I know who has read it. My mother
tells me books remain in the mind
like stems rooted in dirt—but
I wonder, as she chokes
and swallows the words like metal,
if crossing an ocean
has left her unearthed.

There was no one to tell her
where the ocean would begin.
At night, I find her asking the absence
when it will end.
I wonder if she feels it now, too,
reading this book of myths, her tongue
slipping on syllables
stolen from across the ocean.

But we came. We trudged through
this ocean. We came to explore the wreck:
new world, redux. My mother’s voice
quivers now, vacillating between hesitance
and silence. She exhumes the words
from the tomb of her throat.

These words are maps, guiding
my mother’s mind back across oceans, guiding
like my fingers now folded into hers, gliding
through this book of myths.

She searches for her name, but
it does not appear. Where, I wonder,
will she uncover names washed
wayward to these new shores? Failing
to find them, my mother forces
the book shut, flings
it away, and forgets:
it was never hers, anyway.

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