Christine Butterworth-McDermott

When Your Mother Loses Her Mind

This is the beginning when numbed by morphine she asks if you believe in heaven and you say yes because she looks like a baby there in her diaper. This is the beginning when she sends letters folded with your baby teeth inside. This is the beginning of four years of silence after four a.m. messages of how her fortune has turned—your fault. This is the beginning when she calls your father a sybarite the day after he dies. This is the beginning when you think she looks like she’s melting. This is the beginning when she sets the police station on fire by torching “stop smoking” pamphlets with the lighter from her purse. This is the beginning when the men she dates deal cocaine and rob her of your favorite painting for its gold leaf. This is the beginning when she lithiums her words into the phone when she calls her gibberish Spanish. This is the beginning when her nails claw into your arm because you turned from her face, its slippage of self, orange and angry. This is the beginning when she sits catatonic in a chair.This is the beginning when her car becomes claustrophic and she calls you bitch, then lowers her head to the wheel and weeps. This is the beginning when she says she’d rather had your sister live as she pulls your tangled hair through the comb. This is the beginning when she fingershakes the tiny buttons through the buttonholes of a dress she made by hand and pulls it over your head. You have to know. You never could do anything to make it stop.

 

Christine Butterworth-McDermott’s poetry and fiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron, The Normal School, Slipstream, and Southeast Review, among others. Select poems have been nominated for a Pushcart, and a Rhysling Award and have received Honorable Mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (17th and 18th Annual Editions). She is the author of a chapbook, Tales on Tales: Sestinas (2010) and a full-length collection, Woods & Water, Wolves & Women (2012). She is also the founder and head editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine.

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