I tell myself I’m not going to write another dead mom poem by Shareen K. Murayama

Nevertheless she arrives, promptly. In a care home fisted with careless bags of food or a spam musubi. A comfort offering in reverse. I start to write about letting greyhounds be dogs again, how it’s still legal to race dogs in four states. Can we even home those warehoused twenty-three hours a day? If I were the earth, even I could spin completely around. But my mom appears mid-turn, calling me by my sister’s name, her sister’s name, and I realize I’ll never be a good mother if I’m chasing the good-daughter approval. So I ignore her, like her phone calls before she was incontinent, before being shamed by Pizza Hut’s weekly delivery of chicken alfredo. I debone movies about dogs as protagonists since the endings are always the same: we canter along our dog-day, the girl in the bar, her raw bits; the boss who scratched where we didn’t need scratching. I fast forward to the climactic scene, admonished in a shed in winter, waiting for someone to crack. I toggle between pause and play hoping for a different ending. My friend’s in the hospital, stage four breast cancer. Her family will take care of her dog. My mom thinks this is not like the movies, there’s no dress rehearsal for life, she tells me when I come out to her, after I decided to leave my husband for the woman I love. Sometimes I’m tired of running and reaching. Every time I’m offered salvation, I remember I don’t know how to dog. Those not born perfect are culled and called to re-enter again. At the mouth of a large river, I dump my regrets; they solidify, compact over time into man-made cliffs, like a marriage or an emerald island, something to jump off from. I pancake my bare feet on warm rocks, bracing, waiting to try again.

Shareen K. Murayama is a Japanese-Okinawan American poet and educator who lives in Honolulu, Hawai`i. She spends her afternoons surfing and her evenings with her dog named Squid. She’s a reader for The Adroit Journal, and her art is forthcoming in Juked, Bamboo Ridge, The Margins, and Puerto del Sol. You can find her on IG & Twitter @ambusypoeming.

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