Grace Presley was a mother driven by country kindness to dole out lemonade to shutterbug snapping strangers who will, within the calendar year, begin to tear out clumps of grass from a lawn she worked so hard to keep one shade of green, forcing her to put up a fence, fencing her into a prison cell where she’ll spend late nights worrying over you, waking up in a sweat from dreams of your body, charred to a crisp, aboard some fast car with strangers out for their own good. She’ll turn to pills to lose the weight she gained worrying, then to booze to calm the highs created by the pills until the fence can go no higher so you buy her a forever compound she can die, in which she does die in, within the calendar year, from the stress eating and the pills and the booze and you’ll blame yourself, thinking of how she told the neighbors she prays she was poor again and you’ll cry so hard at her funeral, grabbing her body, kissing her mouth, begging the almighty Take it all away! Make me a ditch digger! You can have it all back! You can have it all!, you make them have to put a pane of glass over her corpse. They force you to just look at a bloated, lifeless version of herself and you can’t help yourself and you throw yourself over the glass and you start crying out again, this time not to the Lord but to her and they’ll think you’re talking in tongues but it’s just baby talk you made up with her because she told you every night before bed until you were full grown how special you are, how you’re destined by the almighty for great things and you know you have to prove her right and buy her a home and a car and a kitchen full of whatever she likes but you don’t know you’ll never get to stay with her in the home with the fully stocked kitchen you wished for through all those pasta topped with ketchup years along with the baby blue convertible outside, the one you used to promise her when you were drenched to the bone in sweat from summers that never ended and only seemed to come back year after year; the home and the car and the kitchen you can’t enjoy because you have to go out and pay for the kitchen and the car and the home. Your own mother never told you such things, she didn’t know how to, no one told her such things, so you have to tell yourself how special you are, each night before bed and the weight of this has left you tired and weak and scared that you may never leave this bed and this room and this home and this town before you leave this Earth, and no one will care to read what the coroner wrote; how you were just a boy who became a man who became an old man who wished he believed in a God he could pray to, so he could become more than a boy who becomes an old man and not spend his nights thinking of how it could be; how it should be; how it should have went. You have hair like his, before he got those eyes he used to wear, after he got bloated and old and sad and alone, those eyes Kanye wears in interviews when he talks about Jesus and not his mother and the surgery he paid for so she could look young, those eyes he wore before he passed, nineteen calendar years to the day his mother passed, passed out, a bloated, lifeless version of himself on the cold marble floor of the compound he built for her when he could have just been one of the what Carl Sandburg calls the masses, free to still feel the touch of someone who doesn’t have to care but does, making you wish maybe, just maybe you’ll come back home, content to be a mortal member of the masses to smell her smell – it’s perfume but it is hers, and you wish you could be moved by such things and those hymns that made Grace’s boy live longer then he should have; those hymns that made him put on silks even when they clung to his bloated bulges, reminding himself and those who remembered him as a boy that the past is long lost, stuck in print atop yellowing newspaper clippings that fall apart, right in your own hand, leaving you letters and dates and a shard of a grainy cheekbone. If not for the hymnals, you think he would have died right after his father passed; with them, he felt like he had someone who loved him before everyone “loved” him, when just mama “loved” him and would stand outside of school waiting for him to be dismissed from his time with the masses who will grow up to men and women who leave with clumps of grass in their hands—makeshift relics for a perennially post-war world. The hymnals are just words about Jesus and giving up control. I’m not ready for such things and I may never be ready for such things and it is this which scares her most, on nights like these when she is left alone, on nights like these when she is scared she’ll find him on cold marble, bloated and unresponsive, on cold marble not even her own, on nights like these when he could have just chosen to be someone different.
Steven Hollander is a writer based in Chicago, IL, whose poetry and prose has been published in OPOSSUM and The Bangalore Review.