Madonna and Child

To hear the poet read “Madonna and Child,” click here.

By menopause, it’s not just estrogen
my mother lacks. She’s lost her eldest son–
that’s me, the one who’s queer–the doctor who
once made her very proud. These days, I do
my own wash when I’m home, I cook for her
so she can take a break from all the chores
she now refuses to assign to me.
She sits, half-watching Oprah through her tea’s
thin steam, her squint of disapproval more
denial than it is disgust. She hears
much better than she sees–it’s easier
to keep out vision than it is to clear
the air of sounds–and yet I know it’s age
that stultifies her senses too. Enraged
because she’s lost so much, I understand
why suddenly she looks so stunned
as from the television: “… Bitch, she stole
my boyfriend, my own mother did! …” I fold
a towel noiselessly. I know she thinks
it’s garbage, sinful, crap–just as she thinks
that taking estrogen in pills is not
what God intended, no matter what
the doctors say; or that I’m gay is plain
unnatural, she can’t endure such pain.
The oven timer rings. The cookies that
I’ve baked are done. I’ll make another batch
though she won’t touch them: given up for Lent.
My mother’s love. I wonder where it went.