I dreamed of her for years, the portrait
my father painted from Playboy's centerfold.
Before things got out of hand, my mother
banished them both, Dad and his sultry
mistress, to the cellar. He'd spend evenings
stroking an arm, softening her gaze.
Perhaps he saw there what he could lose,
grappling with her hard mystery. He gave
her up, put away his brushes for good.
She was the last thing we found, when we
cleaned out the house. Damp and moldy,
she was stashed behind shelves of canning
jars against the cement wall. For decades,
she'd knelt there, shivering, one too-long
arm bent painfully behind her head, skin
blotchy, her dull hair only underpainted.
I packed the jars into a box for the dump.
Their dusky contents, once peaches or yams,
bobbed in syrup. I glanced at her, propped
against the wall in a shaft of late sun,
awkward and ordinary and tired of it all,
and saw, for the first time, that she had
my mother's eyes. Dry leaves rustled
in the window-well and the crimson curtain
behind her rippled in a trick of light.
Antonia Clark works for a medical software company in Burlington, Vermont, and is co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. Her poems have appeared in Loch Raven Review, Mannequin Envy, The Pedestal Magazine, Rattle, The 2River View, and elsewhere. She loves French food and wine, and plays French café music on a sparkly purple accordion.