James Allen Hall: Portrait of my Mother as Rosemary Woodhouse

My mother dreams she’s adrift on the Adriatic Sea.
Naked men and women lounge all around her.
Blue waves slap against her thigh and stones fall
from unspeakable cliffs. I am dropped
into her, boulder after boulder of me
until I am safely drowned inside her.

In the morning, Manhattan
never looked so beautiful. “I dreamed someone
was raping me,” she says, shaking her honey-blonde hair.
“Thanks,” her husband jokes, displaying newly manicured nails.
“It was kind of fun, in a necrophile sort of way.”

My mother marks my due-date on her
kitchen calendar. The red circles stare back
matter-of-factly. These are horrible times.

Soon, my mother accuses Dr. Sapirstein of poisoning me.
My mother fears her life has ended, her life has grown
beyond her, her life will sprout a hybrid black bloom.

She packs her one bag, runs from her husband’s house
to Dr. Hill’s office. All around her, women slow
to a blue wintry blur. A flurry of women lay
their hands on her stomach chanting, “Pain is a sign
something awful’s happen.” My mother does not heed

this loose-tongued omen. She stops in at Vidal
Sassoon, steps out reborn: the first modern woman,
her jawline fixed parallel to the city’s trash-strewn streets.
My mother envisions such elegant escape.

Dr. Hill’s surprised to see his former patient. Imbued
with the power to overlook narrative gaps, Dr. Hill
does not flinch at her story. He’s the promise of good
in a darkening nation. My mother prays God will bless Dr. Hill.

But the story of belief runs parallel to the story of betrayal;
my drugged mother gives birth to a living death.

After weeks of hearing my crying, my mother dismantles
the false wall with the plastic crucifix, she explores
the passage from the dreamworld to the one
whose reign I herald, the world of hoarded women
. My mother enters with a knife, emits a battle cry,
and spits in her husband’s face. Her wrath slides down
his cheek. When I begin to cry again,

she wants to hold me, she drops the knife.
The dream of the knife becomes the story
of a generation full of black bassinets. In the story,
all along the naked octogenarians were real.
Covens are a fact of America.

And I am the thing most coveted, the proof
my mother loved each of her ruinous children well.



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