Language & Writing

Self-Portrait As My Mother’s Daughter

by Sydney Vance

Every night, I fall asleep on a pillowcase
full of cicada shells, their faraway hum
in my ear a jagged lilt. Every night, my
sheets are shoe sole-indented leaves,
rain wet & wrinkled. The bottom of my
shoe is a bloody thing. All those
smushed bugs. I wake up to wear
clothes the color of my skin, forgetting
the other skins that I have shed—it is
just what we do. There is not one thing
that I dream about every night & it
makes you sick. What more must I feel.
What more can I owe that I haven’t
possibly paid. I loved you once,
Oklahoma, even though some things
were so flawed that you couldn’t help
but love them all along. Sometimes
that’s the only reason you did. My
mother does not talk about her high
school sweetheart, how he died when he
was nineteen. All that I know is that
they called him Sonny & he was kind &
that they met in a car. I imagine my
mom in the passenger seat before the
wreck, sun spitting light all over her
blonde hair. He’s driving, but I know
how the story ends, remember the way
my mom’s voice broke—when. I don’t
know what love looks like inside of this
car, so I picture my dad next to her &
the picture’s so pretty I can’t stand to
think about it longer than I have to, but
I have to. I don’t remember what her
parents’ house looked like, but I know
that they grew okra in the backyard &
the living room smelled like tobacco &
musk & green carpet, felt like familiar
grief. Like pulse, like breathing. There
was a front porch with an awning, a
waking afternoon sudden                &
alive in front of it.