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My Mother's  Legs
by Andrena Zawinski

My motherís legs appeared to me
again today. This time in a pivot,
her toe pointed in a brown pump,
calf taut, the way
I first saw it tighten
when she pulled herself up    
by my fatherís shoulders,
under the porch light
when she thought I wasnít looking,
to kiss him on the cheek.

Her legs appeared again
to me. There was a stage.
It was backlit, draped with velvet,
the way she told it, with a banner that read:
    "Miss Legs of Mercy Hospital,"
    the honor of bed pans, dated
    magazines, the job
    as a nurseís aide.
I thought, of course,
they danced.

I saw my motherís legs again,
under the dance hall ball, a flicker
of lights skipping whitewashed walls,
    in a marathon
    where she jitterbugged
    a sawdusted floor
at a Moose or the Polish Falcons, with men
sporting vacant stares who let her
lean into the breadth of their chests
and doze for a trophy.

I saw them, they appeared again,
this time switched and welted
by bad boys in Central Park where she walked
alone at dusk seeking the solace of trees.
"Mean," she said, rubbing the ghost
of their pain from her legs,
some hooligans she never forgot
in stories she repeated to me               
about the dangers living away
from home, even escaping her own
fatherís belt at her legs.

One time I saw them, her legs,
so pink, she on reddened knees
scrubbing the worn kitchen tiles.
Baby doll legs, I thought then watching
when she looked up, tossed
the brush back into the soapy pail, a slosh
of suds splashing up at us
as she pulled me into the plush of her
young belly, the soft sweet of her small
breasts, and whispered to me, "now donít you
run your roller skates across my clean floor."
    And how we giggled then
    because she knew I would.

The last time I saw my motherís legs,
they were splayed out from under her.
I could not rub away the cold and pale
and deadly still. I put some slippers
on her feet.
This is the life she made
for me to walk into.
This is the way
it works now. I end up
on my knees
on the damp ground offering
a flurry of mums to an altar of earth
where she was placed. I look into the palms
of my soiled hands, turn my eyes
from the sunblotched sky,
and pray,
    Oh, my dead mother,
    of what use now
    those legs?

Publication Credit:  Paterson Literary Review #19, Paterson, NJ.

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