After Laura Kasischke

My mother’s idea of love was something
shy and pale, a caged thing, cautious, always
in the act of being caught at the edge of night
in her drab life, no glass of wine or cigarette ash
to brush such timid skin.

Her bra, the sturdy kind, white with tiny,
holed seams across the front of each C cup,
a perforation in pondered intent: Tear along
the dotted line.
Panties of the boxy, prudish
sort hung like a blight from the clothesline
strung on the back porch, out of mind.

I, determined to find my real mother beneath
so much propriety, watched more
than she thought, wishing to find the secret
grown women sowed and watered.

The mailman stopped one day, my father
away at work. I, though barely nine, noted
the route completed hours ago. Playing
in the shade of a nearby spruce, I eyed the blush
that stained her cheeks, the way she angled breasts
so cleavage showed above the scoop
of a sleeveless summer blouse. I wonder

if she despaired at my anxious glance
and troubled sighs. One side of her heart,
a lone tattoo of my father’s name. The other,
like a wild mare’s, bore no brand and dreamed
of what it might be like to know
the postman, day and night—mounting
sultry breath upon his mane.