The Shaded Glass: A Free Verse Narrative

Ruben Rodriguez

My mother wanted to keep us the way we were
so she put us in the earth till we were cold and silent

Seven siblings buried I can still hear them
their mandrakian calls follow me in sleep

Mother wasn’t herself
Although I think if she was
herself, that is
she would still be a stranger to me

I hate to think what would have happened if she hadn’t’ve arrived
White as snow, red as blood
She came just before the earth swallowed and shut over my head

took the spade and me out of the ground

I didn’t cry to prove I wasn’t mandragoric in nature
and she took us by the arm and led us inside

Mother had her reasons
She lost herself in my brothers and sisters
her shadow
her reflection
her laugh
Fragments of humanity
laid out
laid still
Like my siblings when they were born

Mother had nothing more to give so she wanted to put me in the garden
before whatever else could be taken

put my mother to bed and me in the bath
I wondered if she kissed mother good night
Someone had to

She watched me watch her wash me
and I asked where she earned such a Jesuit
a mark etched into her hat and shoulders

She called it a university, a place I rarely heard of
Mother may have been mad and mean but she taught me everything I needed to know

She said she came from the hospital
and I’ve been to lots of those
clutched to the hands of my daddy before he left me in the clutches of my Mother

They whispered to me that he was a good man
with good intentions but his spirit was broken as much as mother’s mind
so he melted away and she had come to save us

She had books on us
thick binds of paper with pictures
and they told stories about our lives
they even mentioned the mandrakes
those voices, my siblings
but there was no ending
I don’t think it would have been happy anyhow

Some of the letters I understood
She explained most of it to me
the books told me about “skits-o-friends-ee-ah” and “violet tendon-sees”
They seemed nice but looking back at it all I think it should have been warning enough

and the shaded glass
every night was cold
all the blankets were thrown over the mirrors and we were forbidden to move them
I don’t know when this started
The mandrakes said it was before me so I’m not sure what everything looks like

It’s backwards

They were reminders
constant things that could not be buried in the garden
so they were covered

She tried to move the blankets once
while Mother was asleep
I stopped her
I learn from most of my mistakes
before I was buried
I tried to move the shades
Mother was angered by the brief glimpses of ourselves and I was colored in pain and purple

She asked me why I stayed planted here cold and in the dark I might as well’ve stayed in the ground
I told her I had nowhere else to go
so I roamed like a ghost, barely anything, just to be with my mother

It was the wrong thing to say, she tried to save me
but killed one of us

spoke of the glass but Mother would hear nothing of it
She ripped down the blankets to put Mother back together

So we could get a better look at ourselves

Mother cried and tore at them
she screamed
loud as mandrakes

The last bits of her came down
us in a million pieces
laid out
laid still

Mother came at us
with fragments
sharp to cut
rain began to fall from her grip

took me away in the garden and hid me

I sat in the dark and cold listening to mandrake music
It was quiet before she came out

She took me away in her car and for the first time
I felt warm

I saw mother one last time
In an oaken pall

They found her
spilled out
laid still
the cold tile floor
a canvas
opened with the fragments of herself
White as snow, red as blood

I kissed her good night
before she was put in a garden

Someone had to

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790