My Dead Florida Mother Meets Ghandi

by Francine Witte

Of all the things she could ask, she wants
to know how he managed the India heat.
“Boca’s a swamp,” she tells him, “humidity only
an alligator could stand, and I swear it was enough
to kill me, which, in fact, it probably did.”

Gandhi takes a gulp of heaven air, lavender and cool.
“To be honest,” he says, “I hated it. Hated the salt
lick film of weathersweat. Would have much preferred
it all went down in a tundra climate, Greenland, for example.

Some unfair tax on ice cubes, and me leading polar bears
into the Arctic Sea. There we would chip at the glaciers, bagging
up chunks of permafrost, my breath, visible and white.”

My mother takes his bird-boned hand and holds it
for a while. “You did good,” she tells Gandhi. She looks
at him the way she looked at me when Davey Goldfarb
called to say that, yeah, he was gay, after all. The way
she looked at me the night my husband said that by other

women, he meant our neighbor, Ruth, and the way she looked
at me that last time in the nursing home as if to say
it’s not your fault, it’s not.

“You’re a good boy,” she tells Gandhi, who I think
should be horrified, but isn’t. Instead, he squeezes my Florida mother’s pillowy hand,
his naked shoulders squaring off, his slick bald
head rising up like a new, sudden moon.

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