My Mother the Cipher

by    /  May 26, 2020  / Comments Off on My Mother the Cipher

by Erinn Batykefer

She collected swag from each of them,
the boys she dated in college, trophies
from every branch of the military
but the Coast Guard. She told us
her sophomore goal was to date
someone different every week,
and she did it; the itchy green army
blanket in the den of my childhood
home proved it. When she told stories
she got a far off look and her voice
sounded proud, but also like maybe
she missed them. The dates, I mean.
Not the boys. She hardly ever named
names, only one or two, and sometimes
the name in a story would change,
so it was really only her in them,
causing trouble, almost getting caught.
There weren’t any pictures,
and if that blanket ever had a scrap
of fabric stitched with initials,
it was long gone. So I imagined them
like Polaroids, boy after boy
after nameless boy, tanned and thin,
smiling at the camera next to her;
I imagined them in dorm lobbies
and dive bars, huddled under blankets
in the backseats of cars. Their edges soften
without a name to hold onto; they blur
like a picture developing in reverse,
they way they look at her disappearing
into her till there’s only my mother left:
hair done up, eyes a flat, icy blue,
smiling like she could eat you,
like she’s having the time of her life.

Erinn Batykefer is the author of Allegheny, Monongahela (Red Hen Press), The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide (Coffee House Press), and Epithalamia, winner of the 2019 Autumn House Chapbook Prize, among other titles. She’s a Pittsburgh native and writes and edits in the South Hills.

City of Asylum believes that All Pittsburghers are Poets. With the Poem of the Week series, we seek to increase the readership and appreciation of poetry locally by publishing poems written by residents of Allegheny County of all ages and levels of experience. In partnership with the Poetry Editors at Sampsonia Way Magazine, City of Asylum advances our mission to defend, celebrate, and build on creative freedom of expression. This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD).

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