By Yolande Norris
Under the clothesline
She crouches in the shards of sun
and dawn treading snails
Disturbing the birds and their order of things
And the ants, always beneath her
The day will be long.
When it was Ida’s birthday she could have cried for how much she didn’t want to play with blocks, or with the toy trains. For how much she wanted to be alone.
Being alone in that she could be herself,
or the self she had grown used to being for thirty years.
To be quiet,
Or as quiet as thinking feels.
But her birthday is three months past.
Today they go to Audrey’s for her daughter’s party.
At six AM, Ida had thought she’d never make it, never shape her face into pleasing forms or get enough oxygen into her lungs
that she could unfold and move forwards.
Ida likes Audrey, or can convince herself she does, in the way of women who exist nearby to one another, the walls of their worlds gently pressing.
They can fill hours of their children’s play with the exchange of pleasant words, punctured and laced with warnings, comforts and reprimands.
The language of mothers:
saying nothing, keeping afloat.
Going to Audrey’s home makes her realise what strangers they are.
Because of Ida they are late.
Because they are late the party has already found its natural form.
The children play, not with but around one another, orbiting like tiny, suspicious planets.
Their parents huddle stiffly around the table, conversations split into twos or threes,
It is unclear to Ida how she fits.
She nods and smiles, murmurs her replies.
She gave up on Audrey long ago, but now searches the eyes of the other women nearby, some she hasn’t met before.
Looking for a flash,
an expression she’ll instantly recognise
of someone else who wants to be elsewhere in time.