As we stood by the casket, Momma gasped,
through tears, “Look hard! You must remember her!”
I looked hard, tried to memorize the slight
malicious curl of her thin lips—too red—
and then I studied how her dyed hair puffed,
blond around her pinched blond face. With powder,
the undertaker’s hand was more restrained
than hers had been. And, all in all, I thought
she looked a little better dead—relaxed,
less mean, and more alive. Though not the way
that Momma meant, I’ve done what I was told:
remembered Mary Jean. It’s Momma who’s
becoming smudged and indistinct because
I’ve rubbed that memory featureless with grief.
But if she heard me call her Momma, “Boy,”
she’d snap, “I’m not your momma, I’m your mom.”