Mother's Day in Texas – Damien Ark
May 10, 2020
My muscles collapse
Into warm wheatgrass
And every tendon aches
And sweats like a fuck
And I love it like Texas
Even if Texas was the one
That betrayed me the most
Oh mother of pearl
That gave me a burning copper mouth
You and your fiery crystalline hands
I was an Iowa child
There was a calamity of familial angels
Dissected, molested, abused, homelessness
I am a Texas child
I am a Forest child
Nothing feels better than wearing a tank top
And the thinnest, shortest shorts
On a hundred- and five-degree day in the summer
Thinking of what we want to dress up as in October
You remember the lime green alien mask costume
Or the skeletal mask with the heart full of blood
That scared all the children in the neighborhood
Or the Halloween you weren’t there, and I was
Chewing on roasted pumpkin seeds, watching Courage
The dread of being here now
Trapped in fear of an icy perilous December
All of the wreckage and skewed car parts
You left this place for the same reasons
The hopelessness the suicide attempt at 16
The rapists and poverty and meth and snow
Traveling the states in an RV with your parents
As they drilled holes into the Earth for little to
No money only to destroy their bodies
And now I’m here, and you confined me here
Mother of a thousand suns going supernova
How I still love you after every bruise
To see you again this late May
And feel the summer heat again
Diving into the swimming pool
With all these fresh wounds on my legs and wounds
Open for you to trace and hide from
Texas calls for me
Have I changed at all?
0 & 6
my mother gave birth to me in a river stream
the first thing i ever tasted was
the moss and runes in hebrew of an ancient stone
rainbow trout leaped from the water
earthworms fell from her hair
she said that i was a mute child
i did not scream or cry when i was born
the boiling sun arched itself above us
the sky stretched velvet red with ammonia
the woodlands croaked beneath her feet
and i was bathed in her tallow tears
when my frail arms had resisted her caress
my mother was born with an umbilical cord around her neck
said to be a miracle that she was brought back to life
like me she opposed her own birth
but given time she had forgiven her malignant parents
something i’m not so sure i will ever do
to forgive is to forget and
to forget is to play the fool
so i promised her that i would never forget anything
in response, she forgot that i existed
my earliest memories are of
drawing panthers with my tiny fingers
through the stardust of a howling nebula
embracing the horse head and lamenting
for the weeping eye of G-d
my father glued glow in the dark stars to my ceiling
and given time they would fall and disappear
into my dead-skin cum-stained bedsheets
i had lucid dreams of orbiting Saturn and her moons
my face pressed against the cockpit’s window
i remember long-dead hallways in October of 2000 5:45 PM
where the slight breeze whistled at curtains
and i first realized my abandonment and suffering
like the fading gloss of a crushed polaroid
(or) the orange of the sun peeking through
the gray walls of a monolithic temple
under my skin
and i continue to
dig into the scabs
that have been left behind
My mother worked in all the malls across the metroplex, managing various stores, always winning awards, her employees following her like a flock of sheep wherever she went. From Victoria’s Secret to Coach to wherever next. Behind each department store is the backroom where all items were kept, and my mother had her office. Behind that door are hallways like tentacles that lead to other storerooms and inevitably to places like the dumpster, stairways, the rooftop, and security room. Not all the malls had cameras inside the tentacles of their hidden white cavities.
There were times when my parents couldn’t afford daycare bills. Dad couldn’t take me to work, so I’d often have to come with Mom to the mall. Usually, this meant staring at handbags, women’s lingerie, kids’ clothes, sorting through things for her, and the other employees, then getting a few dollars from them so I could roam the mall and have some fun on my own.
Sometimes, on lunch break, Mom would catch me in Hot Topic, and then she’d buy some albums for herself. Shitty post-grunge and alternative rock that everyone else listened to. Other times, I’d go ice-skating. They knew me by name, by my mother’s name, and let me come by as much as I wanted for free, eventually.
Sometimes, staring at the Northpark Sculpture’s, talking to famous people, Momma, I wanna live in these malls, I love the architecture, can I stay here forever? I don’t want to go back to Daycare. It’s boring there. I don’t really even have friends there. They bully me. Nobody like me. Do you even love me? I don’t want to go to school. Doing homework in the cafeteria. Eating Chinese food. One of your coworkers tells me about the life of Fela Kuti. We go ice-skating together. I get closer with her and the other coworkers than to you or my father. You’re both so busy, working like psychotic machines.
Grandma visits. Dad picks me up from the mall, I’m in the backseat, Grandma in the passenger. She asks me if I believe in angels. It’s a fucking shame you’re raising him as a Jew, you know. We Catholics. Mom, I don’t even believe in G-d. You let them fucking win this shit? Okay, Damien, do you believe in angels? Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never seen one before. So I don’t think so. See? See? This is what happens when you raise a kid with a Jew and an Atheist. I’ll take him to a Church. I’ll show him. You’re not taking him to fucking shit. Mom, if you don’t shut the fucking hell up, I will slam on the fucking, see, you’re scaring him. He doesn’t even know what the fucking Holocaust is yet. You ever say any of this religion shit to my son again and I will fucking make sure you never see him again.
Mom and Dad would get tired of me and leave me at Grandma’s in western Iowa during the summer for a few weeks or a month when I was a kid. She never did talk to me about religion, though.
One of Mom’s biggest pet peeves in the mall was the Christmas music, which seemed to start as soon as Halloween came to an end. Mom didn’t even believe in G-d, but took me to Shabbat services, she wanted me to be a good Jew to please the Jewish side of my family, and she had a fervent hatred for Christmas music. Feels like I’m constantly being indoctrinated. At least you can wear a yarmulke. No, don’t do that. You’ll just get bullied and called a faggot kike, especially with your fucking lisp. If I wear one at work, I might not get as good of ratings or promotions. I don’t even believe in any of this fucking G-d shit.
I was at Daycare that day, but someone jumped down from four of five stories high from the high-rise and landed right into the skating rink, ka-splat, dead as fuck. Mall went into a blackout. Mom was probably thinking of when she tried to jump off her high school rooftop in a tenth grade not too long before she got pregnant with me, depressed on some coke binge, probably not wanting to go with my parents on another fucking pipelining trip.
Sorry for not seeing how hard you had been working just to give me a fucking chance and how much you wanted to protect me, but it was just impossible. There are so many fucking rapists in this world. You know that better than I do, though.
There’s a jar of sand on Mom’s desk. I don’t know what colors are in it, though, because I’m colorblind. She’s never at her office because she’s busy trying to win all of those awards so that she doesn’t have to have me here, and can put me in back in Daycare again, or back to baseball practice again, maybe some new clothes that I’d like too, not this tacky shit I’d get bullied over.
Ironically, the favorite mall my mother worked at was the one I was molested in. The one with all the million-dollar sculptures. Mom sobbing and hitting the liquor hard while Dad was screaming at her while we were living in an apartment, fuck this shitty ass job, fuck retail, I’ll never dress like a clown and sell children’s clothes ever again, I’ll sell women’s lingerie for now on. Still, shit, could be a lot fucking worse, like losing your five-year-old child in the bathroom mall when he goes for a pee. A couple of hours later, he’s amnesiac, completely dressed, but his underwear is missing, hidden in the tentacles of the mall’s white cavities, with no evidence to be traced back to the perpetrator. Then you say fuck it, let him keep roaming these malls, he’s got thick skin.
When the stores had to be randomly renovated over the matter of a few nights and mom would have to work overtime to the max, like eighty hours of some psychotic shit, sleeping in the back room, in the parking lot, I’d sleep over at one of her friend’s house in Fort Worth. I remember seeming to be in an apartment that felt like it was as high as the cotton clouds, watching Tarzan, Robin Hood, The Jungle Book. I’d slip out of the bottom part of his bunk bed, get dressed, and we’d talk about shit like rigging the Dave and Busters Machines, Lego sets that just came out at the new Lego store, going ice-skating, that crazy suicide, let’s touch dicks again sometime, can I borrow your mom’s Tool CD collection, DBZ.
Getting lost in the mall’s hallways. Dressed in my Halloween skeleton costume. Wearing ice-skating shoes. The dumpster smells worse than the farms back home in Iowa. Hot Dallas shitbags were spewing into the dumpster. A young man that worked as a dishwasher for the Cheesecake Factory gave me a snack out by that dumpster. Asked if he could kiss me on my cheek. I squeezed the plastic heart in my right hand that was filled with red dye, fake blood. I took off the mask for him, he pecked his lips to mine, and then I skated off, hands rattling, my heart like a timebomb, and I didn’t know why, but when I made it to the skate-rink, all I could do was sit there and watch the others. I’m so sorry, mother. Please don’t think less of me. I’m sorry for being such a horrible son.