My Mother’s Pillow

I don’t remember
But I am told
That when I was small
And Mother was away
I would sneak into her room
Crawl up on her bed
Press my face into her pillow
And search for her scent
The smell of her hair and her neck
Lingering on the fabric.

I don’t remember this thing
But I can recreate a memory
With the sharp warm scent of my mother’s hugs
Like coal dust over the contours of the mind
A scent of distrust and suspicion
And hardness bred of a childhood
Whose father fucked other mothers in the wine cellar
Whose mother bit her lip to keep from asking about her daughter’s tutor’s perfume on her husband’s collar–
A sent like love
In the low sweet tones like freshly cut grass and hay drying in the sun
The smell of farmer’s sweat at the end of the day and cheap shampoo–
A scent hiding in the folds and confines of an old, yellowed pillow case
Where a little girl finds comfort.

I can recreate a memory
With the frantic searching of my nose now
Pressed against my own pillow
The edges of my quilt, my hot flushed skin–
I’m pulling at the sheets, digging into the mattress
Seeking a scent I’d brought home on my clothes
The warm spiced musk of laughter intoxication
friendship slowly broken stone walls closeness safety–
And I can almost remember
Cracking open my parent’s bedroom door
Sunlight like silver cracking through the curtains–
Me, small and creeping, a wry white spider
Sneaking low to the ground
Crawling up on the bed
Seeking Mama in tones of sleeping sweat
Made tart by anti-anxiety pills yet to be prescribed
Loving hating loving hating her husband
Never the same, one day to the next
And never actually sleeping.

I remember those days
While my sister watched soap operas in the living room
I remember them now
Twenty years later
Chasing the scent of someone who’s left
Fading in my sheets on a bed where I sleep alone
My mother’s pillow
So long forgotten.

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