The Blue Pitcher

that which may be filled and emptied

Month: February, 2012

Put your Monkey where your Mother Is

In all my life, I have only known two people who owned monkeys. One lived in Battery Park City in the shadow of the World Trade Center and named his monkey Marilyn after the starlet. He said the monkey was dirty and crazy, that he’d come home from work, and the monkey would have drank all the strawberry milk and smeared her feces all over the walls.

The other was my mother. I sometimes wonder how my mother, in the foothills of North Carolina, was able to get her hands on a monkey. I can only guess it got left behind by a carnival or a traveling preacher’s show. She also claims to have had “a pet chicken that died” but I think she’s just being funny, just making excuses for why she wants to order a burger instead.

Besides the monkey, I know little of her early life: fried bologna, a broken wrist that she hid under covers, a big doll that she left in the bathroom in the mountains (Ricky, she called him), her love of watermelon, her marriage–at 16–to my father, the same doll–Ricky–left by my father–jealousy?–in an apartment they moved out of in a late night flash. And this: at six-months old she was left by a redheaded woman to be raised by my grandmother.

I don’t think she was left on the porch. But that’s what I always imagine. Or under the pecan tree. Or, bleary mornings, I half-dream stories of her and Moses, and somehow that little dusty town where we were both born turns into a fertile place with a big wide stream. My mother is tiny, violet-eyed, floating in a basket, her little fists opening and closing.

Yesterday, a thousand miles upstream and fifty-some years later, I went to see a family therapist to help me to prepare Eva for the new baby. I sat in a windowless office staring at a poster about saving a choking child. I took off my boots and sucked on a huge cup of honeyed Lemon Zinger, listening as the therapist, who I liked, went into these long scripts of roll play, so long, in fact, that I sometimes got confused as to whether she was talking to me or “talking to Eva” as if she were me. The baby will be fragile, she said. Like glass.

Like your pretty tea set, I added. Very, very fragile.

Good, she said. Very good. 

I stared at the choking child in the picture. She wore a red plaid jumper. There were lots of yellow squares, and someone pointing to a phone, and I was wondering how I would ever remember any of this, thinking about how, if I happened to ever be near a choking child, I would need to get back to this tiny room so I would know just what to do. And what about your mother? the therapist said. I pointed at myself because I am Eva’s mother. I thought we were still pretending. The therapist laughed. No, she said, your mother.

My mother? I repeated. Because I am–presumably–not my mother, I joked. She didn’t laugh again.

Well, I said, let’s see. She had a monkey.

A monkey? the therapist asked. I nodded; she made a note in her book.

I thought about how years from now–sitting on a train or in a very different office from this one–she will find that note (MOTHER HAD MONKEY) and that she will have probably drawn a little tail–after all, how can you write the word monkey without drawing a little tail?–and she will highlight those three words even though she will have likely forgotten all about me, and I will likely have forgotten all about her. 

How easily we forget, how much there is to not remember. 


Already knee-deep in soggy Cheerios and Disney gold glitter, the woman, 36-weeks pregnant, wondered what she had gotten herself into.

Bluer than Lake Louise

from Good Morning America

Dear Zoe–

This morning I read about a family
of blue people, something in their blood.
If they had had a little more of the “thing,”
it would have killed them;
a little less, no one would have known.

How are you?
Did the Minnesota snow ever fall?

It is Ash Wednesday, and here in Brooklyn,
foreheads are smudged,
and people are mumbling promises.
I think of all the things I could give up:
chocolates and coffees,
the internet, old desires.

Luna was the bluest in the family.
She birthed 13 children
and lived to be 84.
Luna, Luna. 
Her skin was bluer than Lake Louise.

I remember my brother’s lips
turned bluer than blue when he was cold,
and I remember a moon following the car,
and I remember thinking my mother’s eyes
seemed more violet than blue.
I remember when I first met you.

Any day now, my second daughter is due.
(I am eleven shy of Luna.
I am huge; I am scared.)
Come home soon.
Brooklyn is blue without you.



I have a post up over at the brand new Teachers & Writers blog. Read it: here. Enjoy!

On the Growing Anxiety of Mothering an Infant (again)

Baby cakes and baby faces, and oh, the baby shoes with baby laces. 
Baby blankets and baby socks; baby tick and baby tock. 
Baby laughed, and baby cooed; mommy wept, and daddy swooned. 
Baby this and baby that; baby peed and baby shat. 
Baby came, and when she came, mama’s brain went the way of rain. 
But baby grew, and mama too, and now they laugh and are rarely blue,
but there are days–rainy and warm–
when mama’s head still feels like a storm.