My Mother Smelled of Something Sour
by Sid Simon
(For a poet-painter collaboration;
painting by Kit Hoisington based on this poem)
When I was little, I was old at eight.
My mother was not someone soft,
not someone to curl up to.
She was dangerous. Should she see dirt
in my ears, a dusty ring around my neck,
she’d smack without a single question.
As if something had spoiled deep inside her,
there was always something sour coming off her,
and she had constant headaches.
So, from some peasant wisdom,
or was it superstition, she
would tie a vinegar-soaked rag,
worn like a kerchief, blood red,
around her coal black hair?
On a vinegar-rag day,
if I had a question,
I just wouldn’t ask it.
Even on one of her good days, I never asked.
I wouldn’t have gotten an answer,
not one that made any sense.
I still don’t have a lot of hope for answers.
I keep a lot of questions to myself.