Danika Stegeman LeMay
My mother is a nebula. My mother’s eyes are closed
like she’s already a ghost. An exoskeleton twins her.
She collapses time. I never called her my mother.
My mother isn’t inside the car but neither is she
outside the car. Dust disperses. Her hand clutches
the door. Her hand clutches the door with devotion
and necessity. Her love has painted the body in two-
toned blue. You can’t see it, but the car’s backseat is raw
unupholstered metal. Memory is a host. My dead live
here in a corridor of rust thatched together in a
ramshackle structure. The grass is overgrown.
When my mother is pregnant, her voice refracts
against porcelain as she spills outward. Her scales
feather the drain. Seeds spread. The home we left
is a field. I watch the field dismantle the shack,
swallow rust. My mother clutches the car’s door
as though it’s what keeps her upright, what keeps her
from collapsing, what keeps her from vanishing.
Remember the quiet evenings. My mother is liminal.
My mother is cleft, between worlds. She speaks to me.
She speaks to me from a mouth filled with clover.
I wrote this poem in the incompleteness of my grief. I hope that a reader experiences that incompleteness. The pieces come together and part ways. The image fills gaps or reveals wounds. Some sentences over-explain and sprawl to cover, some fragment and blunt. My mother was taken from me quickly. I wasn’t prepared. Grief is a slow unraveling pulled through a black hole with an inconsistent pulse. People and our experiences of and with them are complex. My mother is now past and my experiences of her are past. My mother is a nebula and her energy is a fractal that’s still sprawling. I can’t quite capture her or myself in language. I cannot put my hands on her. But my continued life requires a reckoning. I’ve been unsettled and must place myself within these motherless fields.
Danika Stegeman LeMay’s debut collection of poems, Pilot, is available from Spork Press. She lives in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, Afternoon Visitor, CutBank Literary Journal, Forklift, OH, Harpy Hybrid Review, Leavings, and Word for/ Word, among other places. Her video poem, “Then Betelgeuse Reappears” is an official selection for the 2021 Midwest Video Poetry Festival. Her website is danikastegemanlemay.com.
Danika's Book Recommendation
As I was writing this piece I was reading Thresholes by Lara Mimosa Montes. In the book, Mimosa Montes writes the holes and the space around the holes. We see the layers the holes reveal. Perspectives shift and we see the ocean and the waves. Trauma is approached from various vantages rather than being a direct utterance; "like light, refracted, the part of the waves." The text heals indirectly.