by Kenneth Godoy

In 100 Cambridge, time moves around me
when I talk to the voice of my mother.
The sun is flat through the slate on the city.
The smoke rises from chimneys so golden
and red. I hear in her voice the tiredness of living.
Who was she but a woman driven by pride
to live upright or die trying. I could hear that
her feet hurt, like mine.

Like mine, her pride is too great to admit
when we sin. Admitting too much is giving
the devil a foot hold. “Change yourself first,” she is saying.
“Don’t let the world drown you, like it did to your father.
Do you remember how he would come home with his
back bent and his eyes wide in panic.
The world and its weight is sudden, is it not?
We never thought it would come, but it did.
Don’t grow old like us.

“Change yourself first, don’t admit that you need help.
List all of your needs to the mirror by the closet,
whisper them to the God in your shirt sleeve.
Drink water so the linoleum won’t hear you crying
over the sound of the faucet.
Don’t be weak. Be silent.”

I wonder sometimes how we misread intentions.
Can we know what the voice foretells in its softness,
Or discern the trajectory of a soul in a scream and a whisper?
I can still hear her speaking even though she is silent.
And maybe I didn’t hear her at all. I did not hear the
tiredness in her voice as much as I heard the patience
that comes from enduring, tiredness that comes
from her pride that keeps on and keeps on walking, saying
“I will not bend or break. But I will suffer.”

Of his poetry, Kenneth Godoy says, “Poetry is bound to my soul.”

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