“Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,” oil on canvas, by John Singer Sargent, 1886.

by Renee Agatep

When she finally dies
she’ll meekly ask God why was it all
clattering highchairs, whiskers on stained sinks
sunburnt lips and yellowed lace curtains
painted-over smears on doorjambs
warm well water swallows
scuffed linoleum, tinned green beans
phantom fleas and polyester sheets?

He’ll laugh
and say what of
cans of old pennies, drilling holes in pine boards
rumbling choir risers, boxes of matchsticks
rinsing rice, brass doorknobs
gin kiss mouthfuls, key lime pies, bonfires
carnations on safety pins, wax candy coke bottles
pipe tobacco and worn baseball mitts? What of—

But I’ll interrupt
and say how was she
supposed to know? She couldn’t hear
a goddamned thing over the baby screaming, living in that pigsty
with a bunch of little sociopaths, the neighbor’s dog never stopped barking for
Christ’s sake, she just needed a fucking cigarette because
nothing was ever good enough for me—
you see? She’s just so goddamned tired. She’s
tired, you hear?

And he will see
and let her sit for a spell on the
cut grass of eternity, serenity, peeling
oranges, catching her breath
among marigolds, unwrapping
cold foiled chocolates under easy
egg yolk suns, practicing
her name in wet cement
until we meet again.

“Elegy for a Living Mother” originally appeared in Rust + Moth.

omega man

Renee Agatep writes of her rust belt roots in Ohio but now lives in Florida with her husband and children. She earned her master’s at Northeastern University and studies creative writing at the University of Central Florida. Her work is forthcoming in FlashFlood, Dear Damsels, Malarkey Books, perhappened, and Dunes Review.