Demise of the Matriarch

Our Shared Past: The Cummer Museum

Do you think she understands now,
her chin protruded permanently
under the weight of her old age,
how our speaking roles decline to walk on parts? 

From center stage to LazyBoy reclined.
Her whole life has passed, her pace made slow,
her cartilage sparse.

I wonder if she knows.

I wonder if she sees the life that glows under my skin,
and mutters under patient breath an ancient prayer of revenge.

She never leaves her chair, the dreads matting her baby fine hair.
Fox News blares.

I can’t shake the smell of piss, I can’t accept
that so many years of careful and modest control come down to this,
I can’t believe that all of life comes down to this.

In another century the bedsheets flowed from her clasped arms.
The promise of the days within her leaked in bright colors,
the direct ray of her charm constantly spilling
into the varied pigments of happiness untold,
saturated and seeping onto collarbones,
the most beauty she would ever hold. 

Her shoulders are not yet stooped, her back has no hump.
The children have not striped her, he hasn’t beat her yet.
For the moment it’s still soda on his breath.

I found the picture, I put it back.
Her skin only knows the white and black of history’s grey concrete,
the colors settled down and faded, the crossroads long deserted.
The cream of newlywed flesh now angular and jaded.

Paper thin and paper white, I put the picture away.

I wonder if she knows.

I wonder if, when her eyes are closed,
she wakes back to her reality; a photograph reanimated,
her bliss refusing to be sedated by time. 

It hasn’t happened yet,
the desiccation of hands into skeletal spots of terror,
it won’t ever happen either.

Listen to the frantic denials
of a woman soaking fact in ether,
setting truth up high on dusty shelves
with all the other trinkets life’s bequeathed her.

The present day is beneath her, and me too,
and we choose to stand before projections of the past
plastered high on museum walls like canvas shrines to shadows
and the lives we cannot stretch to last.

"The Rise of the Matriarch" by Chip Southworth // Our Shared Past: The Cummer Museum

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