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Mom

by Nina Weinstein

Every night
lying in bed
as the last waking thought
before I give up and sleep claims me,
I scream in my mind, “Mom.”

It’s not you
I want.
It’s the idea of You
because you,
in your cobbled mind,
want the same thing, mom,
but you think I am She
and you are the child.

My earliest memories of you
are your schizophrenic babblings
in an empty room
to someone who wasn’t there,
your pale beautiful face, scared,
and me, scared, too,
a child of four,
watching.

It’s not you I want, of course,
because you
never took me
in your arms
and let me
lay my head on your chest.
I never had a safe place
where I could fully rest.

Now, I’m really someone’s Mom.
I have a son.
Whenever he’s scared
I take him in my arms
and let him lay his head on my chest.
He has a safe place
where he can rest.

Every night
lying in bed
as the last waking thought
before I give up and sleep claims me,
I scream in my mind, “Mom,”
But it’s clearly not you,
It’s the Mom I’ve become to my son,
the safe place
that I can never have,
that keeps me sleeping on the edge,
like a soldier on duty.

It’s a bruise that won’t heal.
Sometimes people point it out,
and in my waking hours
I just shrug my shoulders
as if to say, “What can you do?”

At least now
I’ve become Mom to my son.
How bittersweet it is to be
the Mom that I’d want if I could go back
without losing the survivor strength,
the foundation I’ve built under my own childhood,
brick,
by,
brick.