j o e    m a y e r s

My Mother Is not a Text


Joe's mother is not a text in that she almost was killed dead last night. Murdered. Almost was left to bleed out. Two minutes, she says he whispered.

That's all it will take.

His mother is not a text, and, yet, five hours after hearing her tell the tale, Joe, asking:

At what point in bleeding out does the blood become akin to Freud's dismembered limbs, from the perspective of the bleeder?

A few short midday hours after Joe's listening to his mother's narrative, a violent midnight dragging, carpet burns from the den, linoleum burns from the kitchen, a yanking from sleep and the reclined recliner, by the throat:

How long was she almost able to witness her blood as a vehicle of the uncanny?

As feet which dance by themselves?

Vadarman Bundren's mother is not a text, but a fish.

Perhaps Joe's mother is not a text in that he does feel a shock as she tells him. A sort of white light shock.

On this point, Vardamen:

My mother is a fish.

Though, still, Joe admits his mother almost was the object of some future obit, eulogy:

Almost was text, still, text like some sort of ghost, in the papers, pamphlets.

Tri-folds threatening paper-cuts she almost died on.

Joe's mother is not a text, perhaps, because one particular fact is crippling, and he can only repeat it, out loud, in a sharp murmur to himself for a few turns of the clock:

It was a pocketknife. A pocketknife.

In that he does have a series of small outbursts. Flings a number of writing utensils and outright hurls a mechanical pencil, pacing, against the floor and the mechanical pencil's plastics crack right up.

On his mother's not being a text, Vardamen:

I begin to cry.

His mother is a fish, and yet:

I can feel where the fish was in the dust. It is cut up into pieces of not-fish now, not-blood on my hands and overalls.

Joe considers a figure: the taking of a life.

For keeps?

Just this side of the-somehow-closing of such horror stories, Joe:

His shoulders, she almost died on, where else? In the blunt grip of a pocketknife, a pocketknife, a grip his hands wouldn't forget. Almost was an adjective tacked to him with a hyphen.

Cooked and et. Cooked and et.

And the pocketknife blade sharp, too, with rust. Each short cut and touch a kind of living orange and yet:

Joe, saying:

My mother is not a text but a half-single mother of the country with a creek and gardens. Vegetable, flower.

Vardaman's mother is not a text, but a fish, in that it flops down, dirtying itself again, gapmouthed, goggle-eyed, hiding into the dust like it was ashamed of being dead, like it was in a hurry to get back hid again.

And Joe:

Almost was moved from tense present, to past, in the course of one long enough sentence.

Last night, a late-winter night, a date I won't remember, she almost died on.

Perhaps she is not a text in her apparent and consistent three-dimensionality, in that it swells and shrinks with each breath, still.

Joe, saying:

The lust of the eyes, longing for depth like love.


These flat lines, these flopped lines, where else might I make a fish? Cut a wreath from the tree you almost turned to and read poems as mothers, where else?

Joe's mother is not a text in that she almost was killed dead last night, and, yet:


And Jewel Vardamen's mother is a horse.

This story? A story almost of woe, surely. A reflection?

Not-fish now, not-blood on my hands and overalls. Then it wasn't so. It hadn't happened then.

Almost of imperfect syntax, stuttered-near-completions, of woe, almost: a reflection.

In what mirrors?

Through what apertures?

And now she is getting so far ahead I cannot reach her.

And this halved voice, some thought out distance from the death-sentence that awaits, surely. A quiet slip like the closing of a thought.

That's all it will take.

And Vardamen, in reply to his father's new teeth, new bride, and his half-command, Meet Mrs. Bundren:

And Joe, wondering:

If there wasn't a time when my mother almost was spared.



JOE MAYERS is a doctoral student in literature and creative writing at the University of Utah where he works as managing editor of Western Humanities Review. His fiction has appeared in The Fiddleback. He is originally from Elsberry, Missouri.

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