THE YEAR MY MOTHER TURNED BACK TIME

by Susan Michele Coronel

It was the year my brother 

turned to ashes 

and scattered like pollen in the sea.                           (carried by trees, wind and leaves)

 

My mother jerked her head backwards 

to shake off a grief that could not be shaken,

and then time reversed, 

 

kaleidoscopically. My brother became 16 again, 

strengthening his biceps, flexing them 

to lift the TV remote off the wheelchair armrest.

 

The girl with the mulberry eyes 

is smiling at him. She’s rolling a Lifesaver 

in the folds of her tongue 

 

and he marvels at her titanium hair. 

Then he’s 9 years old, running 

to first base on a softball field, 

 

and instead of constantly falling, 

he’s standing upright. The fat in his calves 

is shrinking, plump legs easing 

 

into lanky sticks.                                                                (not stilts or spears or crutches)

Suddenly he’s 6 years old

and he and I are gasping for air 

 

in a fort under my parents’ quilt, 

where we listen to Casey Kasim’s Top 40 Countdown.

We pretend that we’re lost and in love, 

 

opening the edges of the covers 

to catch our breath. I force him to tell me 

his favorite song under threat of tickle torture. 

 

Time is shifting again like a wobbly chair 

and now he’s a toddler. 

I’m laughing hysterically as I make silly faces

 

 

and twirl scarves around his playpen.                      (not a mulberry bush, a tangle of brambles or wire)

Then in a flash he’s in his crib, 

throwing toys like river stones,          

 


 

drops of milk staining his bib 

as he relaxes into the arms of his baby nurse. 

He is swimming in a dark corner                                     (not a cave, sinkhole or lagoon) 

 

of my mother’s womb, twisting

to the sound of throbbing blood. Amniotic fluid 

around his newly formed brain

 

might be tapped but -- false alarm -- my mother is choosing 

at the last minute not to do an amniocentesis, 

even after warnings from her aunts, 

 

whose sons also had the disease.                                    (superstitions and salt spray from the family tree) 

Water blossoms are twisting

around his scoliotic spine 

 

and mutated strands of DNA, 

until at last I hear the squeaky mattress 

where our parents’ bodies are beating.

About the Author

Susan Michele Coronel is a New York City-based poet. She has a B.A. in English from Indiana University-Bloomington and an M.S. Ed. in Applied Linguistics from Queens College (City University of New York). She has had poems published in Newtown Literary, The Ekphrastic Review, Beyond Words and Street Cake. She has forthcoming poems in Passengers Journal and in a summer anthology published by Other Worldly Women Press.