She took her coffee black
for two or three days –
leaving red smudges on the cups —
and eating nothing — penance,
I suppose, for behaving like a normal
person for a week or three.
Mom was our Jackie Kennedy, our
Audrey Hepburn and Maria Callas,
and she meant to stay that way —
complete with flat belly, swan
neck and saucer eyes.
She picked up the kitchen phone,
turned to her friends with a voice
that was hysterical, piercing, brittle,
We crowded around her as if she
were a campfire that might warm us;
she flicked us away like mosquitoes.
Without warning, it would end. The fast
would be broken, the phone secured in
its Bakelite cradle, the cups washed and
put away, the hyena screech wound back
up into its tinny music box.
She came back to us, two pounds thinner,
with fresh lipstick, an unruffled voice;
she hugged us and looked us in the eyes.
We watched her roll up her sleeves,
mix a batch of chocolate chips, throw
them in the oven. We even helped.
No matter how many cookies we ate,
it was never enough.
Catherine Wald is a former magazine and business writer turned poet. She has published a chapbook, “Distant, burned-out stars”, and individual poems in numerous journals; she also teaches creative writing. Her book about writers and rejection, “The Resilient Writer,” was published by Persea Books. She also teaches creative writing. Cathy has been addicted to coffee since the age of 12.