about the author

Cathy Gilbert is a writer, a teacher, and a pretty darned good cook (of vegan food, at least). She teaches English Composition, Literature, and Creative Writing at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL. Recently, she started a new policy in her Creative Writing course: if students miss a class, they can make up the missed participation points by writing an outlandish excuse for their absence. Because of this system, she has learned that one of her students must have super powers; he has died twice in two weeks, but was still able to attend classes the rest of the semester. When Cathy is not writing poetry or being awed by her student’s prowess as a modern-day Lazurus, she also blogs about life at the trailer court: stigmaoflot26.wordpress.com. Her poems have appeared in the Madison Review, PANK, Main Channel Voices, and r.kv.r.y.

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Mother Left

Cathy Gilbert

quietly, without anyone noticing
at first. The imposter that stayed
in her place was good, convincing.
Right down to the uneven smile,
this woman acted the part.

But soon she stopped making dinner
the way mother did, and then not at all.
The cupboards filled with dry goods,
the fridge with chilled rotting vegetables,
the garbage with pizza boxes and empty cellophane bags.

The television became this woman’s friend.
She stayed up late, and overslept. She stared, cried
and laughed in a disturbingly quick succession,
the floor arranged with shriveling plants and newspapers from months past.
Her fingers in my hair and hands on my shoulders
were foreign—strange and lost.

Dishes fell to me, crusty remains of egg
became my enemy, their distraction my companion.
And still the woman, the not-mother, smiled
and talked about her day. And though bills were unpaid,
crosswords were always finished, every word realized.
The unmade bed, the unwashed hair—

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