My mother accepts our invitation to dinner, rumpled
& sleepy, two weeks after
a cancer-bloated kidney was carved
out. She eats half
of her food, squinting at her plate the way you do
when you come upon the unexpected
depths of the night sky, all
you can’t place, then suddenly pulls up
showing us the scar, pink
& mottled, on her side. My partner & child recoil,
as shocked by the intimacy
as the rough slice,
but I’m not surprised. It’s something I would do
& my mother fucks with me
the way the moon fucks with me: often.
But my mother’s kidney black-holed.
It sucked in all
the details—the tiny bubbles
in the morphine, my sister’s miserable
tears as she watched our mother retch into
a kidney-shaped bowl,
how the three of us huddled
around her stained
Emergency Room bed—so none of us
have to remember them. When I came out
of the hospital
the night before the surgery,
having brought her a burrito
the size of a football, having shamelessly
the sky was overcast, which seemed right.
I could find her in the dark
by the immunization scar
on her upper arm,
a pitted satellite that hung
over my childhood.
If I had to, I could identify her
from the broken nail
on her big toe,
the flash of her false teeth
as she mutters her goodbyes
& firmly closes the door.