Playing My Part

By Sharon Dolin

Featured art: Dancers by Edgar Degas

I let him go. I complied. Adjusted. Saw. Did not see his disappearing
act of staying while leaving the body. It felt so familiar.
My zombie-mom (on Stelazine, Thorazine to tamp

her paranoia down), would be there/not there to make
macaroni and cheese, do the wash, help me with my Spanish.
I knew she was sick, I knew she loved me though she lay in bed until noon,

again in the afternoon, comatose with the New York Post, her arm bent
at the elbow to cover her face. This was what love could feel like—
somnolent, absent. Why be paranoid when he slept in the same pose.

Sometimes cooked dinner, did the wash. Who knew a blunt face
could hold so much hate. The child in me saw his numbing out,
going to bed early, not as aversion but a version of my mother’s love

and all I had to do—as when she’d be taken away, hospitalized, shocked—
was wait for his return. (Is there a Penelope inside every troubled wife?)
Didn’t my mom always come back?

Sharon Dolin is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Manual for Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016) and Whirlwind (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012). She is also the author of a book of translations of prose poems from Catalan, Book of Minutes by Gemma Gorga (Oberlin College Press, 2019) and a prose memoir Hitchcock Blonde (Terra Nova Press, 2020). She is Associate Editor at Barrow Street Press and directs Writing About Art in Barcelona.


Originally published in NOR 9 Spring 2011

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