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Mama Joy

Mama Joy

My dad told me one beery night

of my mother's daily sojourn to the local watering hole,

prodigious belly up to the bar,

singing brightly (she had a good voice).

After a few hours,

the bartender would phone my dad to reel her in.

I wonder if I heard her sing in that dark, warm place,

a womb in distress yet enjoying the melody?

 When I was ten, my grandparents stood by as I reached out

to Mama Joy's rattling Ford as she drove away to the ocean with Don.

She said my schooling would be disrupted if I came along.

A card and $25.00 came every Christmas.

I could smell her Chanel No 5 on the envelope.

I'd run to the stores Christmas Eve and spent every scent on Christmas gifts.

At 12, she called me, slurring in an alcoholic growl,

"You were supposed to be an abortion"

Lucky me - I made it out.

AA paid for my plane ticket to LA from Buffalo when I was 25

to clean her up after a particular ugly binge.

Don had left her for a blonde.

I washed the dishes and her clothes, and wondered at

the beautiful dark-haired woman  standing so bravely and hung-over

before her ex and the blonde as they talked.

I returned to Buffalo shortly.

When I was 52, I looked for her as I did through the years of no word.

I found she had died in 2005 while living at a YWCA.

She mentioned me before she left.

They sent me a picture.

She was still beautiful; her dark hair white,

standing with a group of woman - staring forward with haunted eyes.

In my 30's I had the nightmare, just once..

My teeth became fangs and my nails were growing at an alarming rate

scratching on something as I muttered "mother, mother, mother, mother"

I'll never forget that nightmare or Mama Joy -

a mother and child's bond slightly frayed through the wreckage.

Understanding comes easier with age.