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The Year My Mother Turned Back Time


It was the year my brother turned to ashes and scattered like pollen in the sea. (carried by trees, wind and leaves) My mother jerked her head backwards to shake off a grief that could not be shaken, and then time reversed, kaleidoscopically. My brother became 16 again, strengthening his biceps, flexing them to lift the TV remote off the wheelchair armrest. The girl with the mulberry eyes is smiling at him. She’s rolling a Lifesaver in the folds of her tongue and he marvels at her titanium hair. Then he’s 9 years old, running to first base on a softball field, and instead of constantly falling, he’s standing upright. The fat in his calves is shrinking, plump legs easing into lanky sticks. (not stilts or spears or crutches) Suddenly he’s 6 years old and he and I are gasping for air in a fort under my parents’ quilt, where we listen to Casey Kasim’s Top 40 Countdown. We pretend that we’re lost and in love, opening the edges of the covers to catch our breath. I force him to tell me his favorite song under threat of tickle torture. Time is shifting again like a wobbly chair and now he’s a toddler. I’m laughing hysterically as I make silly faces and twirl scarves around his playpen. (not a mulberry bush, a tangle of brambles or wire) Then in a flash he’s in his crib, throwing toys like river stones, drops of milk staining his bib as he relaxes into the arms of his baby nurse. He is swimming in a dark corner (not a cave, sinkhole or lagoon) of my mother’s womb, twisting to the sound of throbbing blood. Amniotic fluid around his newly formed brain might be tapped but -- false alarm -- my mother is choosing at the last minute not to do an amniocentesis, even after warnings from her aunts, whose sons also had the disease. (superstitions and salt spray from the family tree) Water blossoms are twisting around his scoliotic spine and mutated strands of DNA, until at last I hear the squeaky mattress where our parents’ bodies are beating.



Originally published in Prometheus Dreaming.

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Hi, I'm Susan Michele Coronel

I'm a writer and educator based in New York City.

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It has been a prolific year for my writing. You can find my poems in print and online in a host of literary journals, and I'm working on a book. 

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