Claire Scott

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My Mother’s Grief

Grief was in my mother’s touch
once removed like a second cousin
grief was how she burned
lima beans and didn’t notice

Her stockings had slid around her ankles
in baggy puddles of beige
grief was how she spent days

Swaddled in loss, listening to Mahler’s
dark symphonies in a dark room
my mother who was there, and not there

She never talked about our older brother
who lived less than ten days
his gossamer ghost wandered

Our house on slippered feet
we could hear him in her sudden sobs
we caught glimpses of him

When she sloshed scotch
when she threatened to swallow
her pills, to drive into a lake, to jump

And was taken away, red lights flashing
on our white cotton nightgowns
my brother, barely there, always there
light as a lullaby, dark as a ledge                  

Still Life With Tennis Racquet
A Mother’s Prayer

A crooked body, a staccato limp, a cane                   
living on Oxycodone and Vicodin
to dull the senses, to smooth sudden spasms
Klonopin or Lunesta at night
for flashbacks that strike like
lightning, slicing strung-out dreams
MRIs, EKGs, doctors frowning,
whispering in the ER, concussion,
brain bleed, TBI
sirens slash the afternoon, children stare
at the flashing lights, a teen with green hair
turns away, unable to watch
people gather around the body lying
still on the street, someone calls 911
a woman runs a light, texting
or sipping coffee or thinking about
last night’s tangle of tongues
he enters a crosswalk, easy stepping
the light turns green
his tennis racquet swinging
a Yankees cap, an Iggy Pop shirt
and a brand-new pair of Asics
looking forward to seeing his friends
Lord, where were you that LA afternoon
when the sun was sliding down Laurel Canyon
where were you then
at least freeze this last frame and
let him taste one more mouthful of joy

Fairy Tales

            a twisted shape on the floor by the fire
            clothes dust-dreared with soot
            her stepsisters taunt her, call her a fool

Her father beats her, calls her a fool
she throws her arms
around fledgling breasts
his fists rain relentless

the maid looks away, wincing
wanting to carry silver platters
of roast beef, parslied potatoes
and braised beans
without all the knowing

            how can her sisters be so mean
            my son asks, his face
            filled with disbelief

in the morning the chauffeur
carries her unopened books
to the Lincoln Continental
and drives her three blocks to school

she slumps in the back seat
bones aching, bruises burning
her future shriveled small
enough to fit in the pocket
of her perfectly ironed uniform

            the glass slipper is a perfect fit
            and she marries the prince
            my son sighs with relief

sighing with relief, she took the first man
who put an arm around her too thin waist
that man was my father
a clichéd prince who believed
he was rescuing a fair maiden

like Rapunzel or Snow White
riding off into the proverbial sunset
almost caricatures, my parents
people may yawn and turn the page
the story too familiar, too predictable

but she lived on in a haze of pills
and scotch and the siren song
of suicide, he was ashamed and turned
away, preferring to be without
all the knowing

at night he wore a suit and tie to supper
she wore a frayed flannel robe, slumping
on the table, sloshing white wine
while the maid in a starched uniform
passed the pan-seared salmon with fresh peas

            my son nods on my shoulder
            dreaming of glass slippers
            dashing princes and happy endings


Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.