The House Is A Wheel
Michelle Gottschlich

from MHPQ2


Do we mock our mothers?
Is Paris a city?

— Alicia Ostriker

I’m not sure how to begin.
It seems to have begun
before me. They say

we all become our mothers.
It’s not an inability
to hook into free will, which

has been disproved. To look
at us from some enormous height,
to watch the whole thing

turning, I see it’s not that,
I think, rather,
it’s been disapproved.

She draws her hands up to her chin
and presses the skin, turns to white
the beds of her fingernails. The ring

is there with the faux emerald
I bought her for twelve dollars,
one Christmas, my birth stone or hers,

I can’t remember. At the fair,
I catch her watching the giant wheel.
She’s watching me.

We’re both still. She looks so far
and I do it too: push the curb
of gums under the cheek

my four fingers
can’t quite
grip around.

There is a comforting scent
that quickly spoils
when I think of her

going now through her sixties
how one might slip down
a flight of stairs—

darkness then bright glimpses
of things past, my face, perhaps,
a baby’s pudgy hands,

her husband, and the ferris wheel
in Paris she never saw but gratefully
replaced with hundreds of parks

and county fairs.
The night keeps it all.
We pass by everything

that has and hasn’t
and won’t happen
like riding glass elevators

through the dark,
never arriving,

as in dreams,
where we meant
to send them.

what a proud failure
it’d be to become you.

In your house, that is their house,
women sniff like exhausted dogs
for that trap door to crash through

to gulp finally the potential and certainty
that takes the form of some noble tone
we can’t quite hear. And the men,

they see straight through us, through the house,
how gas moves through the earth,
breaking us easy into the delicious sip of sky.

I fall through another floor
finally to her room. Dreamcatchers
and mirrors hang in every corner,

and in each dim corner,
a mock path to another corner
another black mirror’s

infinite recursions.
In them I trace the tucks
of light on our face.

I push through,
circling, never
nearing the center.

The dark reflects
back on itself, a spectacle
gorgeous and haunting

in its own annihilation
and remembering.
I am exhilarated

and scared, despondent
and desperate, I grip
the white bar like an arm

across my lap
as the wheel takes me to
and from her.