Birth Mother, Portraiture
Another moon face, unsmiling. She has placed the green tea kettle atop the kitchen stove’s lit burner. She looks not at her portraitist, but instead through the window and upon the wicker basket from which she has drawn the morning laundry to air-dry outside in the garden. Her hair, pulled back and knotted at the crown, like my own. She suspects rain, fears for her garden-hung laundry. One hand touches her collar. Her blouse buttons are rimmed with silver. Later, she will finger the hem of her blouse, decide that her clothes are soiled, add another load to the laundry, and dry the load inside on the bathroom radiators. The rain will have fallen mid-afternoon, unearthing the city’s smells of ferment.
She does not enjoy being photographed. She finds her frozen face uncanny. Later, she will ask her portraitist, “Is that me? I hardly recognize her.”
“That is you,” her portraitist will say, pointing. “You’ve always looked the same.”
“I’m not sure,” she will say.
“Why are you unsure?” her portraitist will ask.
“No one would guess that this person is me,” she will say. The rain will have ceased, her clothes will have dried. “I want the picture to look as I look in real life.”
“That is you,” her portraitist will say again. “Just look at your mouth, your eyes. Do not worry. No one would mistake you for any stranger.”
Erinrose Mager’s fiction appears in The Adroit Journal, The Collagist, Passages North, Hyphen, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. She is co-editor of The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature (Lit Pub Books) and Creative Writing/Literature PhD candidate at the University of Denver. She received her MFA and Senior Fiction Fellowship from Washington University in St. Louis.
Cover Photo by lindaruthless