I Guess We Miss Her

I guess we miss her; she does
And she does, and she does.
My mother rarely talks about
her mother. A diamond woman
chipped away by time.
My aunt talks about her sometimes;
the beatings, the tears, the way
she ruled the house with leather.

I guess we miss her; she died when I was two.
My great-grandmother talks about her
with the fondness of a parent; coal-shaded
memories of how she doted on you, so she did.
Yes, my mother says, with evident jealousy. She loved you.
That affection comes heavy with guilt. I lift
my mug to my lips, drain my discomfort.
Yes, my aunt says, she loved you so much she let you
draw on the walls. I woke up hungover, to hear her asking you
not to do that, hen, not to do that please.
If your mother and I had
so much as thought about lifting a pencil,
I wouldn’t be sitting here today.
She smiles, but
I can’t see anything much to love about that.

I guess we miss her; the price of familial loyalty
is holding my tongue.

Ante, Inter, Deinde

ANTE: Puerperium.
Pregnant, she craved citrus fruits, sawed oranges
across the middle. Magician’s assistant
in her belly, sliced into smiling
segments. Held fast by red fate.
She bought grapefruit in huge catering tins,
could only waddle home
with one in each hand. Guzzled
the leftover juice. Couldn’t
bear to share with my father, fellow creator.
She cried late-night lemon-lime tears
of jealousy over a jelly babies advert, until
he shrugged into
perplexed jeans/bewildered sweater, drove a mile
to a petrol station to fetch the objects of her desire.
She crammed handfuls of the sweets into her mouth;
he reached out for the bag. She curled around it.
Possessive. Snarling.
Every one of those sweets fed my
selfish, parasitic cravings.
He received nothing for his trouble.

INTER: Postpartum.
My mother would strip me and escape
to the kitchen when she couldn’t stand
my grasping needs any longer. The old floor
lined with scratchy tiles. I could only shuffle, bare
piglet-in-blanket limbs aimed imprecisely at my destination.
I remember she slumped against the
countertop. Told me to stay
like a dog, one hand out. Her breathing shallow. Glib.
I didn’t cry. At fourteen months, I was trying to
puzzle the world out, force pudgy fingers between the cracks of
emotions and pull them apart. Patient
and inexorable in my studies.
Descending into this intentional gulf.

DEINDE: Postpartum.
When she looks into the abyss,
the generations stare back. I fasted on
intimacy, tried to cure myself of
breast-button-gaping loneliness,
used folk remedies.
And folk.
Bled myself of nettled thoughts, leeched out
Swollen, grub-bellied longing.
Brimming neglect. Clementines, yes,
oranges, no.

Lindz McLeod is a queer Scottish writer, poet, and playwright living and working in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her short stories have been published by the Scotsman newspaper, the Scottish Book Trust, 365 Tomorrows; Lindz was commissioned by the Dundee Victoria & Albert Museum (voted one of Time Magazine’s Greatest Places 2019) to write a short story for their ‘Hello Robot’ exhibition. She has published poetry with Allegory Ridge, Passaic/Völuspá, Prometheus Dreaming, For Women Who Roar, Ink Sweat & Tears, Coffin Bell, Selcouth Station, and more, with work forthcoming in Sunbeam Anthologies and The Selkie. She was also shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Poetry Prize in 2019.