The Song

My body does not hush. 
It is 3 A.M—
the sound of music 
seeded in my young ear
muscles into a ghost. 

My mother calls this song, witness, memory.

I begrudge her this love of making ghosts, 
her Sunday afternoon pastime
while we sip mauby on the front porch. 
How could I know buried underneath these songs 
are her own blues, 
how she finds solace,
how in the repetition she resounds: 
I am…I am…I am…

And I too string a thin line of variation,
the ways in which I repeat —
My foremother returned to the man
who bruised her open,
I return to the man who presses his hands
against the shadows I make at midnight, 
how even when it hurts, 
I am seen, seen, sin.

What if I am the man who does the hurting?
He too stalks my mother’s songs. 
He is first father like the woman is first mother. 
I am the hand choking my glittered heart.
I am the one who undos the skull’s seams, 
teeter towards the great reveal, 

We pare apart every brain glitch; 
how the song slips into our fingertips—
The breaking of paintings off the wall,
the incessant emailing to an old flame who won’t respond. 
We trust only what the men say. Crazy thrives 
when men touch girls under 16. 
We blame also the beatings she endured.
How can I trust a mind that blares, 
he is the one, he is the one, you’ll marry, you’ll marry, 
you’ll marry him someday. 
The therapist says, Immigrating can be traumatic.

The song, a marbled beauty.  I return to. A lie.
A truth. I color in the missing limbs. Finish the eye.
Place the heel of her foot upon his head.
If I make the lyrics mine, am I still a thief? 

Destroyer of the I, 
this song long—
We know the shame of being struck,
beaten into the soil,
strewn through poplar trees.
We know the shame of staying, 
twining hibiscus through our hair, saying, 
he is better than what was before. 
We know a mother’s hands, 
how they bind and tear. 
I know their open mouths
rimming without sound
as I march forward 
towards the altar,
they clutch the bouquet. 

It is 3 A.M.
The body does not hush—


Photo by Photos_frompasttofuture on Unsplash

Catherine-Esther Cowie

Catherine-Esther Cowie is a poet and visual artist. She is from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia and has lived in Canada and the United States. She is a graduate of the Pacific University low-residency MFA program. Her work has appeared in The CommonWest Branch JournalSWWIMPotomac ReviewSouthern Humanities ReviewTriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Acalabash with work forthcoming in RHINO Poetry.