Wordy Wednesday: Secret Lives by Barbara Ras


The same moms that smear peanut butter on bread, sometimes
the white center and patching it with a little spit,
the same moms who hold hair back from faces throwing up
into bowls
and later sit with their kids at bedtime, never long enough at first,
and then inevitably overtime, grabbing on to a hand
as if they could win out against the pull on the other side,
the world’s spin and winds and tides,
all of it in cahoots with sex to pull the kid into another orbit,
these moms will go out, maybe in pairs, sometimes in groups,
and leave their kids with dads and fast food, something greasy
they eat with their fingers, later miniature golf, maybe a movie,
a walk with the dog in the dog park,
where one night a kid sees an old mutt riding in a stroller,
invalid, on its back, its paws up, cute like that, half begging,
half swoon,
and this kid, who once told her mom she knew what dads did
on poker nights–
“They’re guys, they’ll just deal the cards and quarrel”–
starts to wonder what moms do out together, whether they talk
about their kids,
their little rosebuds, their little night-lights,
or are they taking about their bodies and what they did with them
in Portugal, Hawaii, the coast of France, it’s better than cards,
it’s anatomy and geography, they’re all over the map,
or maybe not talking but dancing–
to oldies? light rock? merengue? Would they dare dance
with men, with men in vests? in earmuffs? forget earmuffs!
top hats, younger men in sneakers who catch their eye from across
the room.
Now they’re singing. Where have they kept the words to so many
storing them up like secrets, hidden candy, the words melting
in their mouths,
chocolate, caramels, taffy,
the next thing you know they’ll be drinking–or are they already
on to a third bottle, some unaffordable Nebbiolo
from the Piedmont, red wine named after the region’s fog
and aging into a hint of truffles.
Soon two of them will walk off together, laughing,
their mouths open too wide, their shoulders, no their whole bodies
shaking, the way a bear would laugh after it ate you,
heartily, remorselessly, they laugh all the way to the bathroom,
where together in mirrors they try to keep a straight face
so they can put on lipstick the crimson of the sun sinking into
the bay.
They blot their red mouths on tissues they toss
over their shoulders, leaving the impressions of their lips behind
on the floor for a tired woman in a grey dress who’ll lift them
to the trash,
not noticing the mom’s lips, not wondering for even a heartbeat
if the kisses there meant hello or good-bye.

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