I love you, Mom: yes. Call again soon. Then I:
hang up. Look at the other wall. There are
worse ways to go to college, states away, boxes
packed in your basement even though
you unpacked them all the night before I left,
sent my brother screaming at me, set me to sit
1am with no chairs in my old apartment.

Yes. I love you. But I remember you screaming
on a school night. I remember three years
never seeing another kid, rejoining
high school like a foreign country,
always being the alien from
your gypsy hands.

And yes, I learned from you: how to turn cards,
turn soil, turn raw food into dinner, how to
bring you coffee and never question where
you went for hours (and sometimes days).

Yes, mother, yes, I love you.
You and the silk tapestries on the walls
the altar with the smooth marble piece,
scavenging from alleys, thrift shops
back gardens, bread buses, saying
“the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and
“take them for all that they’re worth.”

You are so complicated, and I love you, but:
I’ve watched you smile when you hurt me,
I’ve heard you laugh when people start crying
as you say “it’s only a joke, ha ha”
as if that banishes pain.

I love you mother, and I took your advice:
I took you for all that you were worth.
Call again soon.

Tomorrow, I'm changing my number.