Maternal Lines

Maternal Lines
 Natalie E. Illum

Love runs out when the money runs dry,
my Grandmother always said.
Or at least that’s what my mother said
she said. She never said it
to me.

runs. Why did you leave? That first time,
or again, years later? I know you told me
that story, the one

about the desert. We never argued
over the truth of it, but
we never shared it either.

you were always
trying to convince me
we were poor. Is that why
you ran out?

Were we like a road trip we planned
but could no longer afford? Was I
something to be pinched
and tightened,

for her? Reallocated, then.
Is that a better way
to phrase it?

Out. My mother could spit that word
across a whole kitchen. My father
knew the threat in a tiny sound.

Did you forget about
the electric bill? Did you
gamble the groceries, again?

Money runs in and leaks out
of this house the same way
old furnaces don’t keep warmth.

Money doesn’t care
love. Maybe pennies
prefer corroding. Hearts can
rust. What she said,

it must be true.
Maybe that’s why

I can’t hoard it: cash, affection,
promises. I can’t even count
or cut and run.
Where did you go?

So many things are dry:
throats, bank accounts, eyes, desert
air. My grandmother’s
sense of humor.

Comments are closed.