4 Poems by Darla Mottram


I held her like a breath,
touched my lips to her cool, plastic nose,
squeezed her stuffed body until it was flat
against the contour of my neck;
perhaps to return to the Portland summer
I slept beside my mother.

Our legs tangled in the sheets.
Nightgowns clung to our sticky backs.
The open window let in hot air
and shouting (no matter where
we lived, there was always shouting).
The screen did not muffle the sound
of things breaking, but I was safe inside
my mother’s fingertips, the soothing
smell of her unwashed hair,
the lingering warmth of her sigh.

But summer was lost to cold winds
and dead leaves. Only a stuffed spaniel
remained, her limp form
an unwritten diary, filled
with all I couldn’t give away.
Time flipped through the pages,
incurious. Dust settled
and settled.

The day came when I needed her.
She would not be found.
I wrung my hands and searched
through closets, boxes,
every inch of the dusty dysfunction
I called home.
Scruffy, twinkle-eyed dog
She never showed.

Sometimes I still look.
In a summer night’s stillness,
in the turning of a page,
scratching, scratching.
In the tip tap
of a keyboard,
in the monitor’s snow-bright whiteness.
I look for her in corners
and in sleep.



Planes have a nose
but no face.
Planes should be named after you.

It is a saggy diaper.
No smile
and it is a bullfrog
swelling for the croak.
Inflated condom.

One sticks out from all the rest.
Lips retreat and it looks like a tiny, aggressive boner.

Flotsam-strewn lips
stuttering self-affirmations.
Your heart is a hurricane,
words washing to mouth already broken.

Maybe if you hunch
a little more.

Your hands
like helicopters.
Set them down slow.
See what scatters
nails gnawed to

Long legs for leaping.
Frog with no pond.

Palimpsest cheekbones
where dead mothers play

Eyes like zeroes.

Take a pick to hips,
excavate the backs of thighs,
burrow your way to bone.
Go on:
unearth a skeleton.

A constellation
of carbuncles
sleepless nights.

Pooh Bear
with an empty jar.
Protruding belly
pregnant with want.
In the zenith of hunger
the stomach eats itself.

The nadir is:
Whatever Fills.

Maybe if you suck in hard,
take shallow breaths.
Maybe if you stop needing air. 

Ribbit. Ribbit. Ribbit.



Arms jabbed full of holes,
fists squeezed tight,
mother moans, sinks slow
into plaid cushions.

Front door opens, brief light.
One man ousts the other,
deadbolts us into
our dingy dark, hands her

thin shaved ice inside
a ziplock bag, dreary,
like someone’s been chipping away
at clouds. 

Sit tight, hun, be back in a jiff,
his hands in her
back pockets.
Bedroom door swings shut.

Television blasts blue light
and guns–Alex Murphy
shot full of holes
becomes RoboCop.

Repeat his dying words
to a stuffed dog, say
“Buddy, I think you’re slime.”
At the same time,

press fingers to make-
believe holes, wonder
how it would feel
to bleed like that.

Credits trail. Curious fingers
reach for the door knob.
See without seeing,
eyes closed tight:

thin wired man inside
mother, her body limp
like someone’s been pulling out
her stuffing.

Later she stands near front door
smoothing out tens,
hands detached
from hole-punched arms.

Play in the corner
with a stuffed dog, wonder
what it would look like
cracked open like that.



in a watery dome
wiggling with the suction cup arms
of a billion shimmering octopi,

darkness cushions,
presses into palms;
cold prickle as pores diminish,
preparing to brush
too close
to pulsing surfaces,
too close
to matter that hurts.

If you make it past them,
stick fingers into dark matter;
rearrange particles
like Playdough.
Shape them into things
the universe might need,

like an unguent
to ease the passing of words
between lips,
or an elixir
to slow the movement of souls
in perpetual flux,
to stop them on the border
of before and after,
and let them linger
in the lull,

in the quavering crux
of now.

If you can think of nothing,
wrap yourself in silence;
tiptoe across dreaming planets;
feet dipped in the blackest ink,
sip salt from their darkling seas.
Listen for what they mutter
in sleep.

Darla Mottram is a creative writing student at Marylhurst University. Her poetry has appeared in Cactus Heart Press, Dead Snakes, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing she can generally be found wandering the woods with her dog or eating cookies.

Photo courtesy of Merceblanco via Creative Commons / Flickr

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