Your Mother’s Favorite Song

It’s that song that makes her
close her eyes and nod her head,
music sending her back to a time

before she had you, reverie
back to that tight-waist hip-hugger
pants time, that barrettes

and bobby soxer time, that
doo wop and shang-a-lang time.
It’s that song that comes

back for her when her last
good nerve has frayed like her
house’s bad wiring, a tune

she hums elbows deep in all
the muck your family accumulates—
compost or wet clothes,

leaf rot or bathroom mold—
making her wistful from platforms
and rhinestones, glitter balls

and halter tops. My mother’s
favorite song was Johnny
Nash’s “ I Can See Clearly Now,”

lilting reggae tune she sang
softly whenever it came
on the transistor radio

that sat on our dining room
table, airwaves usually reserved
for my father’s classical station.

She could sway to that song
as if my father’s swift flicks
of anger didn’t exist,

his temper not a flint
any one of us could spark.
She could step from the stove

sing look straight ahead,
there’s nothing but blue skies

as if she were back in Jamaica—

no one’s mother, no one’s cook,
those skies hers alone,
body no one’s treasure

but her own, sunlight
radiating down on her skin until
every limb and finger grew warm.

Allison Joseph is part of the Creative Writing faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Her latest published collections are “Mercurial” (Mayapple Press) and “Mortal Rewards (Kelsay Books).
*Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.
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