My Mother’s Photograph by Cheryl Heineman

My Mother’s Photograph 

My mother kept her cup of gin nearby.
She had sex in the afternoon. Habit kept
order, swept the floors, ironed the pillowcases,
kept the light on and made her death little by little.

She used to type late night love epistles,
five carbon copies on thin–skinned
onion paper, with her old Olivetti
listening to Louie Armstrong.

Come on, give me umbrella wings and let me strut along

down Bourbon Street, she used to sing.

Oh, when the saints go marching let them love
her gin–puffed face, her smoker’s smile turned
toward the fading blaze waiting for her children.
I regret I never got to tell her I know
what it is to hold a grandchild—

Don’t wake her from the photograph.
She is a woman asleep, the light over a child’s crib.