Julie Farstad, It Was Never Real (oil on canvas)

When you told me you had stopped drinking, the first thing I saw was you as a child, moving
boxes, stuttering, room to room, stacking the cracked jam jars in white cabinets

I saw you in bed, I saw the tight frizz of your permanent wave and the chemical burn, raised red.
I saw you press sheets, I saw you pressing the sheets with your little toy iron

I saw you push the blade of your body into thick safe, aqua chlorine
and surface at the opposite side, where light dissected the shadows.

Then you hauled yourself up the silver ladder, raced over needle-bright grass, I saw you
standing at the bathroom mirror, ants in the sink like a black stream of water

Mother, I see your sadnesses like salt coming out of solution,
the tiny, radiant leaflets leaching their bright, white lives from the water.

In the third grade class experiment, we stirred salt in hot water
until it dissolved, and the teacher said wait. Hang strings in the jar. What is invisible can return.

And it did return, the salt began to collect on the strings as specks,
the specks cohered, formed into scales, barnacles tethered and swinging in brine,

we watched it happen and keep on happening, the precipitant world reassembling before us,

the rock salt of your history, Mother,
the long white threads of my love
of my love, which I offer you now


Jessica Nordell