Bottled Emotions

“_DSC5537” by sayo-tsu is licensed under CC CC0 1.0 

(On the Anniversary of My Mother’s Death)

When I turned seven my mother began
explaining the colors. Took the bottle
down from the medicine cabinet, emptied
it out on a white glass plate, rummaged
around for reading glasses and then
picked out a pale green jelly bean.

This is laughter, she said, this is the milk
inside your popcorn, the old-fashioned
elevators floating your stomach, the suck
of white water that swallows your oars and
the pinch of new skates just a half size too
small, the night you’re introduced to the ice.

This is the flicker of vanilla flame when electricity’s
out, this is your first and second and 22nd time
wrecking your snowboard, this is your half-breed
husky chasing invisible squirrels in his sleep and
this is the slap of your deposit forfeited when
the landlord discovers spray painted galaxies
on the bedroom ceiling. She gave it to me and it
tasted like Sunkist lime, which felt right.

On my eighth birthday I ate bright yellow
piña colada and she told me it was loneliness,
extra twenties in your wallet and sunny
afternoons in the park with too perfectly
trained pets, plus an unexpected afternoon
off spent ordering only one drink.

At nine I tasted danger as strawberry jam;
wasn’t much good at math but I counted
the rest, found there were sixty-six colors to go
and decided my mother had started too late.

Since then I’ve known ennui and anger and
ease and the feeling you get when you stare
mesmerized at the shapes the cream clouds
in your coffee are making and think about
all of the places that flicker over the airport’s
departure time screens, cities of strangers
still not expecting you to come.

Some years I wrote some of them down –
how ecstasy smarts like new blood in your
bedsheets, how trust is like wild geese
winging through mist, how the feeling of
missing the bus in time for the first snowfall
of the year goes down like cream soda.

But there are so many colors and not enough
birthdays. When I left home there were still
fifty-seven jelly beans in the bottle, fifty-seven
unfamiliar flavors floating out there for me
to run into, not knowing how to recognize them,
not having anyone to teach me their tastes. I wish
you could have stayed I wish I could have stayed
longer I think maybe I would have been better.

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