Summer 2017 - Poetry

Lisa Dordal

 

Welcome

 

Flipping the remote, I keep landing
on the hotel’s Welcome Channel. 

Hello, a woman says. White woman,
pretty smile. May I have a minute of your time?

Be as alert as you are at home, she says.
Pretty woman, concerned for my safety. 

She keeps walking toward me—there,
behind everything else. Like fear behind the eyes.

I keep flipping, taking in the news of the week.
People are protesting in the streets:

This Pussy Fights Back. No Ban, No Wall.
Never invite strangers into your room.

Pretty smile, pretty woman. As pretty
as my mother was when she was alive. 

Pretty as she was in my dream. Be alert,
the woman says. As alert as you are at home.

I never knew, on Tuesdays, what she’d look like—
my mother, who drove to the Del Mar College 

of Hair Design to get dolled up cheap
by a stranger. Sometimes, large, loopy curls.

Other times, tight and small—tucked in
like something sleeping. Use the viewport,

the woman says, if someone knocks on your door.
Hepburn-chestnut one week to a sassy blonde

the next. In the dream, she is reading
from my book. She looks happy.

Keep the doors and windows locked,
the woman says. In five pages,

my mother will be dead. First, the bottles
hidden in bookcases throughout

the house. Then, the heart wing. Locked,
the woman says, at all times. My mother

glances up. She is reading in the voice she used 
for Sounder and The Chronicles of Narnia

She reads as if the woman she is
will not die; as if the woman who dies

will not be her. As if she is not even there.
Like when she learned about my attempts— 

aspirin, then the knife, my hand like Abraham’s
over Isaac. Nice story, my mother said. 

We had learned to slip out of ourselves.
To squeeze our consciousness through a hole 

the size of a dime. We were small inside
our bodies. My body is sin, she told me once.

Be alert, the woman says. As alert
as you are at home. Nice story, she said.

 


 

Lisa Dordal holds a Master of Divinity and a Master of Fine Arts, both from Vanderbilt University, and currently teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Robert Watson Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including Best New Poets, Cave Wall, CALYX, The Greensboro Review, Vinyl Poetry, and The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Mosaic of the Dark, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (2018).

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.