Bonding with Bad Mother

Two poems by Kathleen Taylor

I keep Bad Mother’s head well fed on wedges of black plums and half-smoked cigarettes which she eats right out of my palm.



Bonding with Bad Mother

I keep Bad Mother’s head well fed on wedges of black plums and half-smoked cigarettes which she eats right out of my palm. I spread my fingers cautiously downward, away from her mouth, in case she chomps one, which happened to My Older Self once – before that Older Self abandoned us. But right now, Bad Mother’s rubber lips on my fingertips tickle, brush wetly as she nuzzles and slobbers heavy with the steady attention of a neglected mare. She sits, whiskered coarsely on the chin, severed at the neck, upon a bureau with doilies stained xanthic with age. I manage alright nursing her without aid. She doesn’t fancy my milk, so unless she’s sick or romantic, I don’t force her to breast. We’ve established other means of bonding, like sharing stress headaches and hardtack biscuits teeming with weevils, like spanking the weather vane and taking bets on her mood swings, like obtaining a measure of her circumference by subtracting the blood to gas ratio in my breath from the amount of lore in my scapula. In all, she’s fine company, can make a fine mess, can make a fine story. 


Bad Mother after her Birthday Party

Remember the time my head got away? she asks, cheeky. That’s Bad Mother’s favorite one because My Younger Self messed her underwear, worried as she was about Bad Mother’s nefarious noggin rolling down the wrong hallway. This happened at Bad Mother’s birthday party, right before everyone left. One minute she was gassing reeky about her ex-husband, and the next she got knocked pizzlecup upward by the pillowy hip of an unthoughtful guest, who banged into her bureau while twirling his dress. Yes, but don’t reminisce, I scold, that’s how you got bad in the first place. She gives me a side eye and bares her teeth hundredfold, but I wallop her jaw good and twist her head to the wall, where she rocks herself to sleep miserably.

The morning after that party, cleaning up in a hurry, nervously stroking a rat in my pocket, I found her in the apiary. Bad Mother had trundled herself onto a crate of congested nectar. A party kazoo slung between her puckered chops, she taught the bees a new work song, honking in tune with their scissoring wings: Human is mutilation, Human is mutilation, Human is mutilation…

Kathleen is an MFA candidate, specializing in poetry, at the University of California, Riverside where she serves as poetry editor for Santa Anna River Review. Her work has appeared in Peacock Journal, Foothill Journal, Southern Women’s Review, The McNeese Review, and White Stag, among others. She can easily be found journeying through dictionaries and thesauruses to unearth infrequently used words and obsessively reading biographies of her favorite poets.