Variations in White
by Amy Unsworth
After the surgeon pulled back the white sheet, noted
the absence of stars on the night globe of the mammogram,
I had forgotten. I had stopped thinking of nudging aside
the shuffling generations ahead of me, pressed
at the station’s velvet ropes, queued for the sleeper.
When the cottonmouth rose from the creek’s mud
as my son waded bare limbed, I thought of only
the long length of days without him, of wearing
the lightning strike of his body’s passage on my skin.
When the shell of fever broke and he slept,
a newly hatched bantam, his hair a shock of wet feathers,
I laundered the soiled sheets by hand. The wash water —
tinged with soap and worry— sluiced, forgetful, through the pipes.
But now, the woman— whose wartime photograph
as a bride could pass as mine— unlatches the carriage door,
and settles down there on the satin with a bouquet of callas.
I am the brunette at rail side raising a handkerchief
and the woman who sits white headed, my fingers
pressed to the windowpane frosting over with stars.
-from the Hogtown Creek Review