I walk in my mother’s clothes on the street,
feel the cool sweat wider my arms soak her blouse
timidly: shy, damp flowers of my sweat on her blouse.
I let the white dust with its years of spit and sweet
wrapper, its agonising lifelessness, pass over me
in my mother’s clothes, her rust and bright blue
and burnt orange, my mother’s colours on my skin
in the dust, as if they belonged to me. I cheat people:
men; girls in high heels who pretend not to look
and fidget and sulk, girls lovely and empty with want
who I destroy with my Look of Elsewhere.
It’s so easy to break girls, spoil their carefully planned
afternoons, their elaborate ploys to sweeten the air,
tantalise. Their eyes are bright with their love
for themselves, while I walk on the street
in my mother’s clothes, laughing inside, relieved
of the burden of being what one wears, since in my
mother’s clothes I am neither myself nor my mother.
In her inky silks, her cool green gardens of chiffon
that once filled me with thirst, I dream of elusiveness
(which is actually the dream of all girls in high heels
On the street, who I scorn!) Is it only one woman we all
want to be? The woman who opens her eyes and looks
at the mirror into the eyes of a child. The child who drifts
like a shadow through long summer afternoons when
everyone sleeps, the spindly creature of six who slips
onto her fingers her mother’s gold rings, pulls on
an old cardigan that smells of sunlight and milk,
and conducts herself, drowsy with love, through rooms
with their curtains drawn against the honeyed light of June.
Does she always begin like this–seeking love by trying
to become the person whose love she seeks? Rolling up
the sleeves of her mother’s cardigan and sitting with legs
dangling from high chair, her frail little shoulders stiff
with pride, her sisters jealous. Her mother slowly waking
to the calm evening light, laughing at the serious girl-clown
who is opening her eyes to look at the mirror into the eyes
of a woman, when all that there is of that unfathomable
grace she has taken with her and you are suddenly cold
in her cardigan.