American Muse: Joyce Peseroff



My mother’s voice is at my throat
—”Try a scarf in the neckline”—
and on my lips: “Just a little
lipstick.” Today I’m wearing both.

My “mother’s voice,” pitched high, carries
reprimand and care:
“No boom on the table!” My daughter
swats me as I carry her

away from the dearest
activity on earth—sticks, stones, struck
as if the coffee table were a flint.

“Barbarian,” I croon
in heels. “What’s that?” she asks and rips
a nylon with a fingernail.

She cries at the turtleneck
pulled over her head. “I’ll give you something
to cry about!” I hush, succeeding for another

day, or an hour—another minute
late for work. Tonight I’ll choose
a lullaby: “Bluebird
at my window,” Mother sang to me,
a voice that could broom sorrow

through the door . . . A decal
staggered on the painted bureau,
blue wing seeking, finding no way out.

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