Maureen Owen

Distortions

—for lg & cs

vast white ruffles of cloud
bustling         dense         whipped
froth

rich fuzz of tawny         & slipping green
banks as tho herds of seals
sprawled         soft & slopping hills

dying her long black hair         black

I dyed my mother’s hair. I was 9 or 10 and we were too poor for her to frequent a salon. My mother had beautiful long black Irish hair, but she had gone white suddenly in her late 20’s. I would pin my own fuzzy, reddish hair back from my face, don big Playtex yellow gloves, and put on an apron. My mother would mix the magical Lady Clairol formula that smelled of hydrogen peroxide, put the same black-spattered blue towel over her shoulders, and hand me the bulbous squeeze bottle and her comb. We’d set up in the bathroom, fashioning a bright commercial, aluminum-capped hanging bulb. I had a special washcloth to wipe off quickly any black splotches I squirted on her forehead or ear tips or on my own arms. I would part a section of her hair, lay a careful line of the black dye to the roots of the part then comb it in and up and down the long strands. After we’d let it set in for an instructed length of time. Then, with me still wearing the oversized gloves and she still in her blue towel, we’d go to the larger kitchen sink and I would kneel on a chair and give her a sudsy shampoo and rinse out all the extra dye. Bending over her shoulders and neck I could see the black strands flow apart and the white of her scalp emerge in tiny winding rivers.

 

she could put on her left ear hearing aid
but not         her right         & sometimes
she could not put on her left either

back then
she would swing me up behind the saddle of the smokey mustang
go full gallop up the cow pasture til the very end fencing
my skinny arms wound around her waist for dear life         bounced
and flung          my sides pinching & aching
then         turn and gallop back through the cows         leap up the ditch         trotting
the gravel driveway        back ino the yard

 

I’d hire a cook
mince a scallion
boil a whale’s tooth

gusts bunt the pine tops
flat fir boughs whirl         float back
carve         a circle         sway
in place

sloppy sails (low slung)
A tad too oversized
flirting

braces
hymns

this roof is hers

 

Scarf Washing Day
nightly

At bedtime I mix in a Japanese sake cup a few drops of lavender with a small amount of olive oil and massage it into the bottoms of her feet, up and around each toe, and over the instep arch, paying special attention to the heel’s rough sides.

On her frail shoulders and curved back I gently rub Sarna crème and down over her bow bent ribcage and into the soft tissue at the nape of her neck. Sarna with its soothing creaminess and ability to lightly numb the skin against itchiness in the night.

 

that same train
ironically
later         that same day         robbed
by         different robbers

crisis night
ate at 7 — too late
open windows
close windows
too hot         too cold
get up         sit down
get up         sit down
wars with the pillows
needs ice in her water
leg rubs back rubs
needs shades raised
then lowered
bottoms of feet rubs
can’t breathe
get gum         get 7-up
needs more ice
bring in standing fan          and set up
Shut off standing fan         too chilly
more pillow fluffing         positioning
layers of pillows that won’t behave
some nights          we die several times         a night
some nights

Maureen Owen, former editor in chief of Telephone Magazine and Telephone Books, is the author of Erosion’s Pull from Coffee House Press, a finalist for the Colorado Book Award and the Balcones Poetry Prize. Her title American Rush: Selected Poems was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and her work AE (Amelia Earhart) was a recipient of the Before Columbus American Book Award. She has taught at Naropa University on campus and in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program, and in Naropa’s Summer Writing Program, and edited Naropa’s on-line zine not enough night through 19 issues. Her newest title Edges of Water is available from Chax PressChax Press. She has most recently had work in Dispatches, Positive Magnets, The Denver Quarterly, Vanitas #7, Bombay Gin’s Anselm Hollo Issue and New American Writing. She can be found reading her work on the PennSound website.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.