mourning my mother

Nicolas Léger

my father spent his final days
in my parents’ queen bed
clinging to the cold metal frames
and sometimes, i peeked my head in
just to watch his shadow float on the wall

so it was only natural that when he left behind severed limbs
        (some mangled
        some neatly sewn)
we confined ourselves to his death bed
        (my family and i have never been close)
looking for the imprint of his torso in the mattress every night
        (and my mother became the stoic bed frame that was once his life line)

for years we submerged ourselves
staying far apart to avoid the sting
of a recent amputation
it’s how we grieved

(but eventually, you have to stop.
mourning has an expiration date, y’know.)

so at 12, the stench of mutilation drew me away
        (insomnia, maybe)

and my mother couldn’t sleep with the TV on all night, anyway

i returned to a stale, unused mattress
my older sister laid out a new duvet
while i spent a summer watching her come and go

at some point, my mother’s bed became my brother’s        
        (a concoction of ill planning, ill finances, illness
        delayed the construction of a second story
                i’m pretty sure my brother was an accident, too)

but i never had to worry about friends sleeping over
and seeing my mother on the pull out couch
        (because having a boy sleep over is wrong
        like a brother and sister sharing bedrooms)

except, i came out while sitting on the edge
grasped blankets doused in fabric softener
        (it might’ve eased the blow)
my mom across the room, on my sister’s
and i think i screamed
i’m sure i cried

not only had i spent years navigating dead limbs
but now everyone else had to, too
        (they did try to accommodate
        which was nice, but)

the doctors said
you must’ve always known
he was a boy

and my mom blinked—
        (she didn’t know anything.)

when i had surgery, it was easier to sleep on the couch
        (fluid filling former breast tissue
        leaking out of me in foreign tubes)
so my mom spent two weeks in my bed, instead
bathed and touched me more than she ever had in my childhood
a vague disconnect, in a hazed, oxy state when i realized

she’s been mourning me, too.

Nicolas Léger is in his first year at Brandeis University, studying creative writing and English, with a focus on poetry.