I Put On My Mother’s Coat and Her Dreams Fell Out

did you think would happen
when she had no place else
to store up rainy days, to catch
 a falling star, to preserve her dream
when a husband and children left it deferred?

I rubbed on my mother’s lotion,
as a daughter often does.
Did you think it
would erase the ashes of burnt memories, dry
scaly skin lubricated, shiny-ied up,
reflecting light on my brown skin, like
Grandma’s grease, thick like Vaseline in a
Mason jar, sitting on the stove?

I kissed my mother’s cheek, sunken like a raisin
where there was once a plumpness in
her soft skin, a warmness all the
seasons, like she was always being kissed by the sun,
before Death started leaving notes in her leather pocketbook, or
in her marriage bed, to rot like cancer, to fester
as if to remind her of her finiteness, like
she didn’t already know how vulnerable a
Woman was, taken from Man’s rib, leaving him sore.

I put on my mother’s high heeled patent leather shoes.
I thought it would inoculate me from really growing up, but then
the height of them would not let me run
and then I knew that this is what aging does,
creating a lust for aging up, and then a desire to escape from it,
an exhilarating aroma that too soon rots, leaving a stink.

I put on my mother’s lipstick, waxy and red like
redemption from the impression that childhood can be rotten.
She knew how to make it palatable, manageable
 the way the meat I cut up
for my children is, like it is my own flesh or
my own life, taking life’s bread and cutting off the crust,
both of us obeying the calling, when we hear it, and
not shielding them from truth,
not renaming God a Sugar Daddy,
 sentimentally sprinkling over
and ignoring all of what He calls sin,
that list on Mt. Sanai’s stone tablets, a
reminder that God isn’t syrupy,
doesn’t care about being sweet.

I put on my mother’s perfume, thinking maybe
she would stay with me. It
isn’t even a novel idea– just a way
to uplift my spirit when it sags
on these gloomy days and evenings, like
a sudden summer storm, a
sheet of waterfall rain, heavy,
and then the heavenly cleansing, like a load
unburdening, or at least
it smells like it does

when I put on my mother’s life, and it
released its scent, its energy,
all this time waiting to explode


Cynthia Robinson YoungCynthia Robinson Young is a native of Newark, New Jersey, but after 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now lives and writes in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her family which includes eight children and 16 grandchildren. She is the author of the chapbook, Migration (Finishing Line Press) which was named Finalist in the 2019 Georgia Author of the Year Award in this category. Her work has appeared in anthologies including Across the Generations, vols. I and V, and in journals and magazines, including The Ekphrastic Review, The Amistad, Mantis, The Writer’s Chronicle, and Sixfold. She is currently working on a novel.