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Phone Call to My Mother on Her Last Birthday

I listen to her voice, the intonations,
wanting to memorize the contours of her vowels,
wanting to be contrapuntal.
She’s smiling at her breakfast,
eggs this morning that she made;
she might use pepper and there’s a
breath mark when she looks at my father
looks with her walnut eyes
eyes that are so tired now
and I say “Happy Birthday”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY I smile wide to the phone
like Thespis of Icaria
unpracticed at loss
bellowing into the mask,
burying my face in his arm, suffocating
tiny gulps of air that are sadness
while she goes on in perfect tempo:
she’ll go for a walk and
the flowers need tending.
I tell her how happy I am for her
how happy that she’s feeling fine
and that she’ll have a good day
because what else is there to do
but pray to Thaleia for a steady voice,
mouth the cadence I know.

Amy Williams lives and teaches in New Delhi, India. She usually writes about education and feminist issues but is reviving more creative pursuits. She holds masters degrees in English and teaching.