At night, I lie still
On the pathari, purple cloth placed
Delicately on the gray carpet
Next to my mother. She’s
Shut the blinds, left the lights off,
Fallen asleep. In the room I
Am the only one with
Eyes open, breathing quick.
My mother is breathing in,
I inhale along with her, but the exhale escapes a little earlier
Than hers. I try again, and again, but her breath
Is skipping away from mine, teasing, tormenting, slow, fast, slow, fast, now my breath is beating me, I cannot
Catch it either, now I
Have lost both, am I really her child if I cannot
Match her sleep, match her smile, her walk,
Was I born ever? I realize, in the darkness, i cannot confirm
The length of the floor. It is not my floor, at all, it is hers, benevolently
Gifted to me, but right now
She is not awake to supervise,
And if I move
I will plunge into my depths.
My ancestors have left their laundry here
It spills from towering baskets and floods the open floors
I cannot see the carpet.
If I were a better woman I would have
Drowned them in detergent
Folded them into neat stacks
Sleeve, sleeve, top, bottom.
But I avoid showers to smell like myself as long as I possibly can
Before soap and rubbing red and raw abrades my old skin.
Besides, how many cycles would it take to swallow the sweat of a generational curse?
Lavender-scented distractions are how we ended up here.
My room is rotting because I remember.