Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Motel Mary Poppins

October 31, 2014








Motel Mary Poppins

by Br. Benedict Joseph of the Cross

Tricked again
by life,
treated to yet another neon-cheap motel,
we’re three refugees
dumped from a divorce,
and a mustached man
—who is not my dad—
getting used to being lonely

It’s Halloween.
Kid sister and I drape on the windowsill,
gazing through greasy glass,
A dying sun sinking down,
we’re dying, too,
dying to go out
but we have nothing
to hide ourselves behind.

Mom glances at us, sighs,
more than used to getting by on a dime,
walks out with a whispered “Don’t worry.”
She flies across the tarmac,
leaving us with that mustached man
who is not my dad.

Back in a few
with a big brown sack
from a five-and-dime,
she triumphantly takes out
two plastic masks
—you know the kind—
with the thin rubber band in the back
that snaps apart too soon.

The funky smell of that plastic mask,
breathed in through two tiny holes
glues itself permanently to my brain
as I look,
face already sweat-slick,
in the mirror.
Frankenstein’s monster now grimaces back at me,
wearing the blue faded flannel
and giant-sized jeans
of the man who is not my dad.

And my sister
has become a freakish genie
in a Barbara Eden mask,
drowning in Mom’s worn-out t-shirt—
mustard yellow—
with over-easy eggs where breasts will be

like the small-town majorette she used to be,
parades us to the door,
passing us smiling orange
pumpkin pails, pulled
at the last moment
from the five-and-dime bag.
Abandoning the not-dad
(he abandons us a few years later, anyway)
we march off
to besiege whatever doors we can find…
we never did find very many.

But that night, at least,
with maybe her last two bucks,
instead of buying smokes,
Mom made us feel like millionaires.

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