Runaway Mother by Abby Caplin

Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you.
For you are my little bunny.”

                                                   —Margaret Wise Brown


The day we took our daughters
to Children’s Fairyland

for some kid’s birthday and stuffed them
with synthetic cake

we looked up, confused
by what looked like

a black tornado
engulfing the Oakland hills.

For days across the bay it rained
charred scraps of classics

and cookbooks from kitchens
that no longer existed.

We washed burnt bedrooms
from our hair and swept

sorrow from our sidewalks.
I found the best recipe

for baked chicken
on your front porch and used it

long after your ashes
filled the small hole

at Home of Peace cemetery.
The truth is I was five and five

minutes before my parents
crested a mountain in Montana

something happened
between a car and a big rig and the big rig

driver was sitting by the side of the road
smoking a cigarette,

his bloodied face
glittering of glass,

maybe contemplating
the dead woman

still in her car. A few months
later I looked through tiny windows

from the bed over the cab
of our camper

as my mother pulled
under the overhang of a drive-in

dry cleaner to ask
for directions.

The roof of the camper sheared off,
and I heard my mother screaming

my name through shafts
of daylight and plywood.

From such stuff bunny
mothers become fish, trees,

sailboats, even

Poor little bunnies.
So many mothers

believe this is love.
This is not love.

It is the fever of fear, though I recited
Runaway Bunny for you

until my throat cracked
and I wheezed in the night,

Let me be.




Abby Caplin’s poems appear in Burningword, Common Ground Review, TSR: The Southampton Review, and Tikkun, among others. She was a finalist for the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award and award recipient of SF Poets Eleven 2016.


(Front page image via)

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