In Which I Try to Understand Spacetime and My Mother

When my first sister found the body
of my second sister, our mother reacted by praying
for resurrection. Never mind as children we feigned 
excitement to die for Heaven and denied
the yearn to experience our flesh,
silently begged not to be raptured virgin. 

Never mind Heaven is a place invented
as the inversion of hellscapes 
or the horror of souls swimming in lava. 

I reacted by stretching my body on the lawn 
too drunk to discern if it’s raining 
or the cosmos are dancing, laid 
on the crust of this planet’s
burning core, as a sinner hanging 
by a thread to a semblance of faith. 

Space is woven together with time
to create a smooth fabric deformed 
by the presence of energy.

My mother and I, we both seek to tear 
a hole in the cloth like worms 
in dead bodies, tunnel 
through the years to revise her history.
I deconjugate my past with my present 
to, for once, create my own infinitive.

In the months after, my mother sends
me transphobic religious tik-toks
and I’m too exhausted to explain that God 

is a patriarchal construct conceived 
to hoard power and wealth
like all the prosperity gospel preachers 
she sent checks as if the wet ink 
summoned the Holy Ghost’s blessings,
that the hours chanting in sanctuaries
with a random combination 
of the following words and phrases: 
hallelujah, yes, God, Father, Jesus, thank you, 
[mumble in tongues] sounds like a divine sorcery.

Spacetime combines the three dimensions of space
and one dimension of time to visualize why observers 
perceive differently where and when events occur.

From where she stands, the Adderall prescription
was my sister’s gateway to addiction
so when my mother held her daughter 
during a panic attack and my sister repeated
“I want to die” my mother’s only act was prayer.

In the typography of a Monster energy drink, 
she visualizes the Hebrew script for 666 
evidence of supernatural indoctrination 
of the youth (see also the Rapture?). 

I read only the letter M and a sibling suffering 
and self-medicating her shame 
to tame the monsters clawing her mind.

Would she be alive if my father left 
when he said he would? If their divorce 
and the CPO never cancelled?
What if my mother never wove her past
into our future, convinced the fibers 
of the pattern are a different color 
now that the abuse is more verbal than physical?

An object traveling through space 
will eventually return to its starting
space-coordinate but at a different time. 

In October, she confesses a past sin of celebrating Halloween 
on social media. She’s guilty of sewing her children costumes, 
trick-or-treating among witches and ghouls and goblins. 
Never mind there’s little difference between 
speaking a prayer and casting a spell; 
both conjure spirits, fail to raise the dead.


Melissa Holm Shoemake lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two sons where she works in college administration and sometimes teaches at Emory University. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Mississippi and her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies including The Southern Humanities Review, The American Poetry Journal, Iron Horse Literary Review and The Southern Poetry Anthology. Her chapbook, Ab.Sin.The. is available from Dancing Girl Press.