Poems by Rebecca Hart Olander
This Bird Has Flown
What wouldn’t I give to enter the backyard
———of our old apartment, bordered by my mother’s gardens
of bachelor buttons and yarrow, and see again the familiar
———bedspread on the grass under her tangle of friends
singing along to her boyfriend’s guitar.
I watched from my bedroom, stung with ten-year-old
———embarrassment, my pee-soaked mattress
drying in the sun on the shed roof over the kitchen.
———How many times did we have to drag it
through the propped screen door, tearing the piping,
sloughing off shingles as we pulled it into position?
———Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and the Beatles’
“Norwegian Wood” drifted in as I peered through the eyelets
———of my curtains, knowing the visitors
would have passed the evidence when entering the yard.
I hoped the white and purple lilacs that made the path
———into a tunnel masked the scent of urine
the rinsing hadn’t quite removed. But I was also embarrassed
———about the cloying curl of pot smoke
seeping from their circle into my room. About my mother
in her floral halter top, singing, stoned, under the sun.
———I wasted time being ashamed of her body and mine.
Felt they must be judging me. Judged them right back.
———Sang along under my breath, in my dark room,
on an empty bed frame, glad I didn’t have to show
anyone my room. To have been her friend, instead
———of her daughter, fingers brushing hers as she passed
the joint, warm beer bottle between legs stretched across
———the lawn, neither of us knowing all the words,
but singing along anyway, to George’s sitar.
I was waiting in line to buy ice cream during a break
between bands at the Solid Sound Music Festival.
My son saving our spot on the lawn. In line behind me,
a mother and son, which I guessed from his whine
at the length of the line, her patience in return.
He was maybe fourteen, but I didn’t turn to look.
He was telling her that at the protest he went to
in D.C. with his friend, he saw Mark Ruffalo.
It was about overturning Roe v. Wade, and the actor
was there. I think he’s like, fifty-five, so he’s old, but I mean,
he looked really old though, he said. I know dude, she said,
he’s getting older. We all are. Mark Ruffalo included.
I’m part of the all-of-us-getting-older, with her,
and Mark Ruffalo, and our sons, too. Not just in the
white-hair way, or the scramble-for-a-word way.
In the way it hurts to stand at a music festival all day,
even for Wilco, or in line for ice cream.
That overheard snippet stuck with me, the way
what the nurse told me did when I got my blood
drawn recently. “Benny and the Jets” came on
the sound system while she notated my chart.
Oh, she said, it’s my favorite song. Ever since I was ten.
Then a whole story tumbled out while she readied
the vials and tourniquet. I was sitting on the couch,
watching a movie with my mom, curled up in the mousetrap –
that was what we called the space behind her bent knees –
and that song played over and over through the movie.
It became my song, she said. She told me when
to make a fist, and when to let go. Said she’s seen
Elton John twenty-two times. Her kids chipped in
and bought tickets to Gillette for Mother’s Day,
so she’s going on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.
With her, it was the mousetrap that slayed me,
that given name for the space a mother’s body makes
while relaxing but also making room for her child.
How what we hear sticks with us. That little girl
tucked inside, face glowing in TV light, listening
to the song she’d love most for the rest of her life.
Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry and collaborative visual and written work has appeared in print, online, and in multiple anthologies. Her books include Dressing the Wounds (dgp, 2019) and Uncertain Acrobats (CavanKerry Press, 2021). Rebecca has taught writing at Amherst College and Westfield State University and works with poets in the Maslow Family Graduate Program. She’s the editor/director of Perugia Press.