Tonight I tell Mom about the time
I took a ride from a stranger,
locked my sister out of the house
in the Minnesota snow, clung
to the back of a leather-clad driver
on a speeding motorcycle at midnight
in the middle of West Berlin.
I can finally confess the forbidden tales.
She’ll remember none of them.
And she tells me hers too,
hidden stories of her childhood.
Camping out at a mica mine
in the Rockies while her parents
prospected, fought, blasted,
loaded the truck with shining slabs,
hauled them to Denver. How her mother
traveled through New Mexico
in the ‘20’s, slept beside the road,
shot rattlesnakes with her ‘22.
How her father spent a couple years
in prison after the war.
Outside, dim cubes of fishing shacks
scatter across the frozen lake.
I step into the cold, feel my way
down the icy path in the dark.
The eastern sky glows red,
then flames orange and gold,
ignites evaporating stars.
This mama’s smooth as an egg
in your two-year-old fingers.
Arms fold across her round belly.
Lashes wink under lacquered headscarf,
black eyes gaze into your blue ones.
You pull her apart, surprised to find
secret dolls within. Bodies, heads spill,
roll the floor. You try and fit five generations
back together, search for the missing baby,
laugh when you find her, this tiny heart.
Where’s your own mama, little one?
Off to Vegas with a new boyfriend.
She met him on the Internet weeks ago,
hasn’t been back since. She’s gone,
seeking her fortune, once again.
Baby heart, you’ll need all of these mamas.
May they hold you in their wombs,
keep you from the wolves of your future.
All hearts bleed for you. All hearts beat for you.
You too have secret lives within.
Karen E. Jones is a teacher, poet, and life-long learner from Corvallis, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Tower Poetry, River Poets Journal, Paperplates Magazine, Willawaw Journal, Earth’s Daughters, and Rise Up Review.