Mom took us to the National Gallery
when we’d had enough
of dolls, work-out videos
and make-your-own-popsicles.
“Which one is you?” she asked
and we stared up,
the walls whiter than at home.
The girl with the watering can?
The hula hoop?
The one that up close
is made of spots?

The little girl alone,
because she was blond,
and I was too, then.
The one who thought mom
wasn’t looking
because she was so far ahead,
who could sit in a cardboard
moving box
in grass above her head
and be alone.

1880
Yellow spots with green,
shadows of moving flowers,
a little girl alone,
walking in front of the rest,
veering slightly to the left of the path,
her feet frozen in motion,
her youth trapped in one breath.

Monet’s wrist trains my eyes
to recognize my face.
My face
with a mere suggestion of eyes
the color of my dress,
blue into green
peach into yellow
like the world with sun in your eyes.

Mom chose this postcard
years later,
to write me from Walter Reed,
when I would clorox the kitchen
before bed,
when I would sit on my floor
late in the night
and write Bible verses
on ripped up note paper,
tape them on my wall.

I taped the postcard too,
between rainbows are reminders of god
and a Teen-Bible cut-out
of how you look ahead when you carry coffee
so it doesn’t spill—
a metaphor for looking to the future.
Now everyone has cancer
and metaphors of the energy
of color,
of beams bursting
through her body
dividing the cells
that divide too fast,
and her and me both
no longer suffice.
Mom rolls her eyes
at breast cancer patients,
lends them her books,
feeds them carrot juice.

But back then,
my Spanish teacher took me aside
when her mom died
and told me I understood
what it’s like to ponder your mother’s death.
I had no idea,
just accepted her jewelry,
let her call us in, one by one,
to choose the clip-on earrings
we had preferred most while playing dress-up,
the watch on a golden chain
that wound,
that my grandmother kept
in a box
in a plastic bag
with a rubber band around it,
padded with bandaids.

Two nurses,
girls in their twenties,
manned the radiation machine,
showed me a video
of the room behind the metal doors,
and the one nurse slapped the other.
“You’re crossing your legs again,”
she said.
Crossing them makes varicose veins
like her mother had,
she explained.
Then, without a pause,
she pointed at my mother’s feet,
coming out one end of the radiation machine
like groceries on the slowest moving
conveyer belt you’ve ever seen.

Jessica Wilde is a D.C.-based writer of fiction and poetry. She grew up in a Navy family, moving frequently along the east coast of the U.S. and throughout Europe. She graduated from the George Washington University in 2008 with a degree in English and Creative Writing, and received the Hassan Hussein prize for her thesis in fiction. She writes for the Works in Progress section of The American Scholar and is an Assistant Editor of Bourgeon.

My Garden at Vetheuil by Jessica Wilde (c) Copyright Jessica Wilde; printed by permission of the author.

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