Archive for October 1st, 2007

by Alissa King

The Note on the Refrigerator

When I have memories of my mother, they are other
other people’s mothers, other people’s memories.

A perfume like violets, and the cadence of gypsy
vials and colored glass bottles, pearl strands and
glittery earrings
arranged upon an upturned mirror; gold brooches,
delicate curios.

And there is tinkling laughter, and a swishy, glittery

This creature is surely a machination, for she is the
ultimate counterpoint to
the bold, broad shouldered woman forever hauling an
infant around
on a shoulder, a hip.

That harried creature of bustling industry with
kids seeping out of every nook and cranny.

No, I see chatelaines and laces, opera glasses, velvet
masques —
a curl dropped just so;
a deep red Tiffany Box with inlaid satin.

Whose mother was this?

And who is this other lady hiking through the Sequoia
the maternal one with arms and extra padding for comfy
wielding a trowel or a walking stick?

Yesterday, she scrawled a note and left it on my
in that loopy slant that is rounder and more measured
than my own:

“I brought you a medicine bracelet from the Cahuilla
Reservation. The red stone beads remind me of your
hair. Palm Springs was nice, we spent a day at the spa
but my favorite day was at Rancho Mirage, on the
reservation. We took photos. Beautiful places. Your
refrigerator was a MESS! I cleaned it out. Remember to
pick Sierra up at the library, 2pm. Stroganoff for
dinner, don’t be late.”

I study my note now, looking for the fusion, the
turning point.

It is just a little more than something that you read
and then
don’t look at any more.

I read it twice today, and fold it, and put it in a
with other sacred artifacts that cannot be thrown

This is today’s tangent, making me sensitive.
Morbid, my mother would call it, but I need to guard
against the day when such a simple thing, such a
casual scrawl
may be treasured and revered.

Reflections, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights

Discount Days at the Zoo

It’s been a handful of years
I’ve reigned as that supreme creature:
A mother minus a mate.
Funny how it has become a little box now
On certain administrative forms —
Single mother, broken and regal;
the words don’t communicate deficiency
in and of themselves.
They speak of obstacles
and somewhere, back and back,

Despite the challenges,
we find joy outside the lines.
We color new trails around
a path more customary,
marking our way with personal occasions.

I liked evenings in underwear,
a diapered, milk mustachioed young lady
grinning cheerfully.
The woman curled around her soft, sweet form
giggling and making expressions.
What so cozy as this half clad cuddle time?

after the stem fell off, after colic,
when dimpled buns could fill the thrift store
we’d make our sojourns out to the park
and the library,
and sometimes to bigger adventures.
Some days we would see printed in the paper
half way down, in bright, bold letters:
“Discount Day at the Zoo!”

Here was a cause for celebration!
This was call for preparation and ritual.
We would set out our clothes, the emerald tee shirt,
a tiny jumper, the box of crackers that would quickly
be forgotten
in the presence of more tantalizing treats.
We would revisit our short list,
making sure our favorites were still our favorites:
Polar Bears, Orangutans and Lions.
(For should some calamity befall mid-trip
such as the sky dropping unceremoniously
onto the concrete wall of the lion’s exhibit,
these were the creatures who would receive a final
a fond farewell. The Zebras and the Lemmings, however,
were simply on their own.)

And so we’d go, always to the shortlist first
making our rounds, stopping at the fountain
and at the statue park to play.
My darling is sunny in pigtails
beaming out of half a dozen photographs;
feeding ice cream to fiercely tarnished alligators

We would stare at one animal for twenty minutes,
and my baby would be transfixed
and I would be smiling,
lifting her up to see, my back strong and muscled
like the capable heroines of the bible.
I knew my strength and my joy to be here on this
with all these wondrous things; confident in my place
among the fur watchers, the beast seekers.
I was indomitable and graced —
some days.

There were other days my eyes were avid
raking the people, not the zebras.
Seeing the women shuffle and snort
instead of the rhinoceros;
their mouths complaining, soothing, calling.
There were days my eyes were searching
for women with two or three children;
I was searching fingers, taking note.

We would sit close to the families of four,
so pretty a picture in their family groups;
and you would see the family men:
The daddies with diaper bags slung over their
or a toddler in tow, gripping, yanking.
Men with daughters, men with sons
ruffling hair, teasing their women folk.
Their women folk.

Sometimes I wasn’t anyone’s women folk,
and I knew it.

Sierra and I would sit at the sticky, metal tables
beside the snack bar, and I would spread out our stuff

making it big; bags and coats filling up the benches,
filling up the space.
And I’d talk loud, and I’d laugh frequently, and sing
serenading my daughter, so lovely she was
so small, she could snap, and break,
If I should chance to take my eyes away too long.

I’d talk and laugh and sing to her,
creating bold outlines for our family of two.

And then, inevitably, the day would fade.
The frenetic energy of the throngs would give out
Slowly, and then more surely
sugar rushes would crash;
and while twilight advanced on the people of the park,
the birds of prey exhibit would wake.

Eerie hoots would indicate the advent
of fuzzy heads bent over tired shoulders.
A slow parade of people would make their way
gently from the gates of the park
and out into the world.

My daughter is cuddled in her car seat.
The velour snuggles her body like a womb.
We are two creatures on the planet heading out again,
to connect and to have our hearts broken,
to celebrate our little stretch of life here;
and tonight there is so much reason to
look forward.

About Alissa:  Alissa King attended Marylhurst University, a private college near Portland, Oregon for three years. She is a single mother who lives near her family on the Oregon Coast. She writes articles and stories online for Helium.com, Associated Content, and Elance.

About writing Alissa says: I have always written, since the age of five. I used to get out my mom’s old typewriter and compose short poems to hand out as ‘presents’ to my oh-so-patient family members. This year I’m taking the opportunity to really devote time to writing. Having developed a daily discipline, now it’s about finding the confidence to try and write the bigger stories. It’s scary in a way to actually attempt your dream. You can no longer say, “Oh, I could do that if I tried.” There’s no cushion between you and the dream anymore. You just have to do it.

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