The Same Story

When my mother graduates 8th grade
in a navy-blue polyester dress
with ribbons at the waist and new white shoes,
my great-grandmother scolds her:
The next dress should be your wedding dress.

She is worried. My mother is left-handed—
Who will want to marry her?
At night the same dream haunts her.
An old woman dies beside a field of birds.
What will become of the world, she wonders?

She drinks black coffee in the afternoon,
hangs tea bags by the window to dry,
reads The Forward at night,
remembers being a young girl,
the sound of rain hitting a metal roof.

When I am born, she frets over the fat of my cheeks.
Feed him only water she tells my mother.
When she is old, she gets confused
about the ocean
how it moves from east to west.

In Los Angeles where she waits to die
they find her teeth in the room of another man.
The man’s children think she’s after his money.
How strange we get when we grow old.
They whisk the man away and hide him

like a blackbird hides its young.
These stories always end the same.
A bed in a hospital.
A woman refusing food.
Her childhood so far away, she cannot speak.