Cedar House Books
© Kate Gray
All rights reserved
These words may not be
reprinted or reposted
without the author's
Dear Sir, Comma
Sometimes folding my body like origami to hide
under my mother’s vanity, I held my breath
when she entered the room.
Other times I feigned
weightlessness to walk
over creaky New England floors and sat
outside the bathroom where she soaked
in Jean Nate, heard the plop of bright balls
of oil in hot, hot water.
Sometimes from my room
I heard her voice, tired
from raising six children
in the ‘60s, tired
from hacking herself away
from my father rooting
his madness in us all.
Her job was answering the mail
for her brother, a pundit
launching conservative reform in language
and politics. Enunciating into a microphone,
the tape taking her voice in tight rounds
to a secretary in an office in New York City,
my mother’s open syllables turned.
My grandfather had trained her Os
and As. From my room I heard her
answer the letters squabbling
over my uncle’s columns, “Dear Sir
Comma My Cap brother
appreciates your concern
Period,” punctuating my sleep.
Now nearly forty, I hear my mother’s voice
long-distance, the lilting tone, the training
of faintly British vowels. Working my job,
responding to compositions by students
who do not hear words parried in political debate,
I speak into a computer, my voice springing into type.
I hear my round vowels, “Dear Student, Comma,”
and I see my mother bent above her desk.