The Window Frames Mum
“So this is what you see each morning,” she says. Three royal palms waver in the yard, rise in an easterly wind from the ocean which has run decades between us. Shadows of clouds spread shapes across my neighbor’s rooftop. Her black hair is clipped up, arms akimbo, silk robe drapes her elbows—chin lifted to a brightening sky. I inhale the witch-hazel, the Ponds cold cream she massages her face with each night—keep my chin in the wishbone of her clavicle.
She spent ten days here with us, sleeping on my side of the bed with one arm raised. Alan on the couch. Now he’s away with work and I am here: in this window with my arms akimbo. Royal palms still but for a flock of parrots rioting the canopy. A jogger, dog walker, four teenage boys, all mouth-breathe freely on their way down the street towards the beach.
Imagine constellations of micro-droplets, aerosols expel and expand like a universe beneath the trees. Imagine the makeshift morgues in parking lots, ice rinks; Imagine the transatlantic journey home—4000 miles on a packed flight. How even going to the supermarket is unimaginable. I know Wilde when he wrote: “It’s me or the walls.” I know Rilke when he wrote: “I must change my life.”
I tell Mum on FaceTime, “the cats are balding from heavy petting.” She walks the field (mask-less) which is to say her face is bright with late summer–the sky tantrums behind her: tangerines and violets—she calls it a “Miami sunset.” She’s sending me a book by Rinpoche. His name conjures Tibetan prayer flags. This is how she calls me to prayer. We hang up and the sound of her voice keeps coming out of the room.
Chloé Firetto-Toomey is a British-American poet and essayist living in Miami Beach, Florida. She has an MFA degree from Florida International University, and her most recent chapbook of poems, Little Cauliflower, was published in 2019 by Dancing Girl Press. Learn more about Chloé at chloefirettotoomey.com