Tina Barry

After Discovering Mother’s Passport

I run my finger over the braille
of its perforated history, to stall

the moment before I open its cover
and see her again. It’s not her face,
or not her whole face, that makes my heart kick,

but knowing that below the nimbus of black hair,
beach-glass green eyes, I’ll find
the two poorly-hung shingles of her front teeth,

heavy above her fat lower lip.
Mother knew beauty. Longed for it
the way an iced street longs for sun,

and yet each morning turned
that face to the world. I saw
others startle, watched

her force her mouth shut
like a too tight coat. And still.
And still there were times

I dropped her hand
when school friends neared, failed
to return her wave

after my dance recital
that she paid for with money
that could have fixed

those teeth.