Grace O’Connor



My mother calls it an accent wall,
which is to say it does not match
the other three.  She buys green paint
because green’s my favorite color.
My artwork papers the adjacent wall
like another skin—I’ve grown old
enough for her to unlayer my bedroom.
She peels back paper, unsticks daughter-
hair from rolled bits of tape, sloughs
portraits from their places.  She loses
her nails from the effort, manicured
scabs I find littering the carpet.
The wall’s back: bare and exposed bone,
vultured clean.  After she’s through,
she lovingly paints the wall adjacent to
the one unskinned.  Then she leaves
home.  As I navigate the new furniture,
packing the room’s carcass into boxes,
I try to make sense of my mom.  I can’t
see myself fully in her mirror, the one
she hung to reflect the accent she left.
Mama, I want to understand this.
Seeing myself barely shoulders-up,
I look into the mirror’s vacancy—my neck

beheaded against a green backdrop.


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